AWS Turns its Focus to Cloud WAN, 5G Networking

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Amazon Web Services, which already offers organizations a broad array of services around compute and storage, is now putting a focus on the network.

During his keynote address at AWS’ re:Invent conference this week, CEO Adam Selipsky introduced the preview of AWS Private 5G, a fully managed service that will enable enterprises to more easily deploy, scale and manage their own private network and set it up in a matter of days instead of months.

The offering gives organizations “all the goodness of mobile technology without the pain of long planning cycles, complex integrations and the high upfront costs. … Once they’re powered on, a private 5G network just simply auto-configures and sets up a mobile network that can span anything from your corporate office to a large campus, the factory floor or a warehouse.”

Also read: What is a Private 5G Network?

Taking WAN to the Cloud

Two days later at the show, AWS officials unveiled the preview of AWS Cloud WAN, which service companies can leverage to build and centrally manage a global private WAN leveraging the cloud provider’s technology and link together on-premises data centers, branch offices, and cloud environments.

AWS Cloud WAN allows service companies to build and centrally manage a global private WAN leveraging the cloud provider’s technology and link together on-premises data centers, branch offices, and cloud environments.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a change in how customers use the AWS network,” AWS officials wrote in a blog post. “More than ever, customers are looking to decrease the complexity of their infrastructure so they can focus on their applications and other business priorities, their network is stretched over a global footprint, and customers are using a mix of technologies to make this happen.”

That said, there is complexity in managing all these requirements that can slow users down, they wrote. AWS Cloud WAN gives organizations a global network that’s managed by AWS and offers connectivity options, including VPNs, software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) or fixed lines.

AWS Pushes into Networking

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst for ZK Research, told Enterprise Networking Planet that AWS muscling its way into the network space is a significant move for the company and the tech industry.

“It signals to the industry how important the network has become,” Kerravala said. “One of the interesting aspects for AWS is now that they have become a full-stack IT provider, they can provide you with everything from the underlying compute platform to the application development tools, the AI [artificial intelligence] tools that go into applications and now the network [and] the storage. You can manage your whole IT environment now conceivably just through the AWS Console.”

In today’s highly distributed IT world that spans from on-premises data centers to the cloud and out to the edge — and is further fueled by the sharp shift to remote work — the network becomes the central technology that ties it all together and through which the data and applications run.

Using AWS’ Backbone

Cloud WAN is designed to help with connectivity within AWS, enabling enterprises to leverage centrally defined policy and automation to create network segments and propagate them across their global WAN. AWS officials said the service will help organizations building virtual private clouds (VCPs) across multiple regions and extending SD-WAN into AWS, as well as those that want to replace or augment parts of their existing networks with AWS’ network backbone.

The service includes a central dashboard for attaching connections to branch offices, data centers, and Amazon VCPs and the central policies enable companies to centrally configure and automate network management and security jobs.

Networking Vendors Tout Integrations

Several vendors from the networking, security and data management fields are working with AWS on Cloud WAN. Cisco Systems is integrating its SD-WAN offerings — including those from its Viptela and Meraki businesses — with WAN Cloud. VMware is doing the same with its SD-WAN technology.

“The solution ensures local presence with VMware SD-WAN services and offers global reach with the integration to AWS Cloud WAN riding over the AWS backbone,” Vivek Archar, senior product line manager at VMware, and Jay Thontakudi, senior product marketing manager, wrote in a blog post. “The solution gives enterprise IT operational simplicity to deploy large numbers of sites with easy on-ramp to the cloud and a rich user experience.”

Other vendors announcing integrations include Aviatrix, Fortinet, Prosimo, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Aruba Networks business, which is integrating its SD-WAN and LAN offerings.

“This integrated solution automates network deployments and removes the complexity of manual, time-consuming, step-by-step configuration and connectivity of individual branch offices to local AWS points of presence (PoPs),” Aruba officials wrote in a blog post. “Enterprise customers can use the Aruba solution to automate the process of connecting branch offices to the AWS cloud in minutes, including one-click automation of any Aruba EdgeConnect instances that must be deployed within customer VPCs to support a given use case.”

Also read: 5G Drives Collaboration Between Carriers, Cloud Infrastructure Providers

Telcos Should Take Heed

ZK’s Kerravala said telcos will have to pay attention to what AWS is offering with Cloud WAN. The service offers a number of features that will be attractive to a wide range of enterprises, including a consumption-based pricing model — like that offered with its compute and storage services — in which the organization pays only for the bandwidth they consume or, if they’re connecting multiple nodes, the throughput they use.

“If you think about traditional telecom services, they’re anything but consumption-based,” the analyst said. “They charge you a flat rate and then if you go over, you’ve got to pay more. But if you go under, you don’t pay less. … It’s an interesting model and a way to redefine the way telecom should be.”

He said that initially enterprises likely will use the AWS service as an alternative connection to their traditional teleco, adding that telcos need to take note of this.

“AWS is going to push innovation in networking now that they’re in it and, let’s face it, the telcos aren’t really known for their innovative capabilities,” Kerravala said. “They tend to be pretty slow moving, so it’s good for the industry. Now that Amazon’s in [the network], they’ll drive up utilization, will drive innovation and the telcos that respond and also innovate will do very well. The ones that don’t [will] get left behind.”

The Private 5G and Cloud WAN services mark an aggressive push into the networking space by AWS. The cloud provider already has network services, “but anybody that really tried to use it as a global WAN would have to cobble it together with their own SD-WAN connections,” he said. “This just makes it easier and it can be managed through that single pane of glass, the AWS Console.”

Also read: Why 5G Isn’t Just For Carriers

AWS Presses Advantage Over Azure, Google

It’s also another differentiator for AWS in the fast-growing public cloud space that also includes such competitors as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. In that market, bolstered by its commanding lead, AWS is the one driving much of the innovation, Kerravala said.

In the third quarter, global spending on cloud infrastructure services jumped 37 percent year-over-year, to more than $45 billion, according to market research firm Synergy Research Group. AWS, Azure and Google Cloud accounted for more than half of that spending, with AWS having a market share of 33 percent. Azure had 20 percent followed by Google Cloud, at 10 percent.

AWS Cloud WAN is available as a public preview in 10 regions in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Read next: Going Beyond 5G: What to Expect from a 6G Future

Jeff Burt
Jeff Burt
Jeffrey Burt has been a journalist for more than three decades, the last 20-plus years covering technology. During more than 16 years with eWEEK, he covered everything from data center infrastructure and collaboration technology to AI, cloud, quantum computing and cybersecurity. A freelance journalist since 2017, his articles have appeared on such sites as eWEEK, The Next Platform, ITPro Today, Channel Futures, Channelnomics, SecurityNow, Data Breach Today, InternetNews and eSecurity Planet.

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