As part of the price wars heating up in the commodity cloud market, a somewhat overlooked conduit to interoperability is now receiving a great deal of attention with the announcement of Equinix's Cloud Exchange service.
With Cloud Exchange, operators can use Equinix's vast array of data centers, combined with the presence of edge equipment of Microsoft and Amazon, to use a dedicated 1Gb or 10Gb line to transfer data between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. A non-public-facing dedicated line to transfer data between cloud services is faster and more secure.
The Amazon-facing feature, AWS Direct Connect (which was introduced in late 2011), allows users to establish a dedicated connection from another data center or office to AWS. The first rollout of this was at Equinix's Fairfax, Virigina facilitiy, and has grown since.
The Microsoft-facing feature, Azure ExpressRoute, was announced in October 2013 as part of Microsoft's plan to improve the competitiveness of Azure with competing services. The agreement with Equinix was announced in April 2014.
How it works
Amazon and Microsoft have edge servers in Equinix facilities around the world. By connecting the two end points at Equinix, a direct line between AWS and Azure can be created, easily allowing for the fast transfer of data between the two services. In bypassing the usual encumbrances of pushing large amounts of data across the public internet, a direct connection provides increased input of 147%, according to Equinix.
In addition, the utilization of a direct connection increases the security of the transfer to a relative extent; this connection is not vulnerable to attack (in theory), because the connection does not face the public internet. This does not counteract the inherent security issues of using cloud services, or any offsite data store; however, if cloud services are involved, security is likely a consideration after ease of access and portability of data.
An API for everything
Equinix customers are provided an API and a web-based exchange portal through which users can manage their connections to cloud services. According to the Equinix press release, "Businesses can use the Portal and APIs to allocate, monitor and provision virtual circuits in near real-time with the provisioning of those circuits automated end-to-end from the Cloud Exchange to the service provider."
Charges for the Equinix Cloud Exchange service will be assessed on a per-port charge, plus a VLAN administration charge. The final pricing structure has not been announced.
The Equinix Cloud Exchange is available at data centers in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., New York, Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Paris, with expansion to six other unspecified data centers scheduled to occur before the end of the year.
Who is missing from the party?
Google is the one prominent cloud provider that is missing from the action. I hope Google joins Equinix to improve interoperability between Google and other cloud services.
Will the newfound ease of transporting data prompt you to migrate your data to and from AWS and Microsoft Azure? Are you holding out for direct connectivity with Google? Do the potential costs from Equinix (on top of the costs for data egress/ingress from your actual cloud service provider) make this a losing proposition?
Post your answers and your thoughts about how your organization manages cloud interoperability in the comments section.
James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.