Level 3 Communications announced Wednesday the availability of a scalable, SDN-delivered, Layer 2 Ethernet feature that will purportedly offer more flexibility and agility for enterprise-cloud customers using Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The feature, which is called Level 3 eLynk, works as a self-serve functionality for Level 3's Cloud Connect Solutions with Amazon Web Services Inc. , allowing those customers to host multiple virtual local-area networks (VLANs) on a single Ethernet Virtual Circuit (EVC) in their cloud environments. The upshot, according to the company, is that actual cloud connectivity for these customers is made easier and more flexible -- giving customers the ability to add connectivity to new virtual private cloud (VPC) environments on their own through Level 3's portal.
"Network connection to the cloud has not been that simple, historically," said Chris McReynolds, vice president of core network services at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT). "It's relatively painful. Users would usually go to their salesperson and say, 'Hey, I need to add this attribute.' Now it's not a whole new network order, so it's not quite that painful."
McReynolds added that the new EVC solution is "a step" toward bringing the benefits of network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) to user-to-network interfaces (UNIs) as it leverages SDN to simplify dynamic cloud network connectivity on the user side.
The release represents a continuation of Level 3's long standing ties with Amazon and AWS users. Nearly four years ago, the two companies announced Level 3's membership in the AWS Partner Network (APN); in April 2016, they further announced Level 3's elevation to "Advanced Partner" status. At AWS re:Invent in November, Level 3 powered cloud connectivity for the event. And earlier this year, the two companies jointly announced that Level 3 would be delivering Amazon's new unified communications offering, Amazon Chime. (See Level 3 Teams Up With AWS for UC Service .)
More to the present point, McReynolds said Level 3 has developed APIs for AWS that can positively augment the agility and user experience for the new Ethernet feature -- resulting in "near real-time" network configuration.
"If the customers give us a couple pieces of information, we can do all of the configuration to that cloud environment on behalf of the customer -- so we really make it one-stop easy shop on the network-config side to AWS," said McReynolds. "It's all dynamically done in our network as soon as they enter something in the portal to do so."
Although Level 3 kept the announcement under wraps until now, the service went into general availability on July 17, according to the company.
"It's released, salespeople are quoting it. We have a handful of customer orders, and we have a couple using it on the network right now," said McReynolds.
Level 3 would not get into specifics on pricing, but the company did share that the pricing structure for its Cloud Connect Solutions is consistent with other "pay-as-you-go" pricing models it offers -- in this case, pricing being based on the aggregated amount of cloud bandwidth per cloud region as opposed to paying per VLAN connection. Effectively, explained McReynolds, this means that customers should be able to cost-effectively share their regional bandwidth across their Amazon VPC instances.
Moreover, while the EVC-based self-serve offering is specific to AWS users, McReynolds also said that the company expects to next release a similar solution for Microsoft Azure customers. McReynolds noted, however, that because of the inherent differences between these cloud services, the solutions would likely similarly differ.
"With AWS you have to add those VLANs; for Azure I think the benefit comes from actually adding net new EVCs," said McReynolds. "It will be implemented differently."
After Microsoft Azure, McReynolds indicated that other such offerings for other cloud services would likely follow.
"AWS was our first because they're the biggest. Microsoft is number two. That's where our focus is shifting," said McReynolds. "And then it will be interesting to see. Does Google really get it ramped up? Or does Oracle make more headway? Or does Softlayer/IBM continue to gain the traction? So it will be evolving."
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation