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Recently I caught up with Vincent English, CEO of cloud interconnection company, Megaport. By his own admission, the company has flown a little under the radar since its formation in 2013. Specifically he was referring to the radar of the major network carriers, but I think it would be true to say that many Enterprises aren’t aware of the simple, powerful and cost effective cloud connectivity options Megaport offers.
The experience of many enterprise IT Operations Managers is that the purchase, provisioning and management of wide area networks can be complicated, costly and time consuming. While the advent of the public cloud has, in theory, improved the situation, the reality of hybrid and multi-cloud architectures has made the environment more complex.
The Megaport solution offers a very quick, transparent way of ordering and provisioning connections to the major public cloud vendors. I was keen to understand how they do it.
The place to start is Software Defined Networking (SDN). At Bloor we comment all the time about how Big Software (the software definition of all the major components of cloud and data centre operations) is heralding a new era in computing. Without a doubt, the software that Megaport have developed is critical to their value proposition. This is as much about the customer facing, portal-based software as the software provisioning, pre-authorisation, authentication routing and optimising capabilities of the Megaport SDN.
Three things stand out when looking at that value proposition…
- The simplicity of being able to self-provision on-line and contract for interconnectivity in a few clicks
- the flexibility of both the pay as you use pricing, with minimum one-month commitment and by the hour and distance charging, and adding to or changing the network connectivity
- the scalability of the solution to cope with increasing bandwidth requirements.
It is sometimes forgotten that software defined networking still needs hardware, and it can be hard to understand what physical substance there is to companies in the SDN arena. So, I was keen to find out what physical infrastructure Megaport owned to support their solutions. They have a presence in 465 Megaport enabled 3rd party co-location data centres. In each of these, Megaport place a cabinet with 3 or 4 racks of servers and switches (they work most closely with Juniper and Cisco) that provide the cloud and internet exchange and interconnectivity options. They own and operate their own 100GB core backbone network between these data centres and major markets. They also partner with key undersea cable and metropolitan area network dark fibre providers to build out the (almost) end-to-end connectivity that globally connected businesses require.
Around two thirds of their customers use these facilities to connect securely to the major cloud providers with most of the remainder using them to connect to internet exchanges. Increasingly of course, customers are using multiple clouds. So, the ability of Megaport to provide connections to, and between multiple clouds is important.
Megaport continue to grow to meet the increasing connectivity and bandwidth demands of the cloud. Across Europe, Paris will finally be brought into the network ensuring that the key FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) markets are fully covered. In addition new connectivity in the Nordics, Belgium, Austria and Poland have, or will shortly be brought on stream.
Earlier, I said that Megaport provided almost end-to-end connectivity. The bit that is missing is what you might term, the last mile. Vincent reflected on the fact that many of the discussions Megaport have with prospective customers falter at the last minute when they realise, they still have to organise connecting their own data centres, head offices or regional branches to the Megaport enabled data centres. If you are located in a major metropolitan area this may not be a significant problem. If you are already in one of the data centres used by Megaport then it is a simple cross connect. But in some industries, like manufacturing, with locations that are less well connected, the answer might not be as straightforward… unless you want to leave it to the vagaries of a public internet connection. There are emerging vendors and technologies to help ease that issue and I will come back to that soon in a further blog post. In the meantime Megaport are proving that the complex issues of wide area networking and multi-cloud connectivity needn’t be complicated.