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Understanding Cloud Onramps

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  • Directly connecting servers at a data center to public cloud providers adds security and saves costs in setting up a robust hybrid cloud infrastructure.

  • Today most businesses access cloud services over the public internet or over a Wide Area Network (WAN), and for many this will be their best and only option. However, companies that use colocation services have another option available to them via ethernet fabrics the provision direct connections to public cloud providers. Also known as “cloud exchanges” or “cloud on-ramps,” these interconnections are available in colocation data centers to businesses that want to bypass the public internet and access cloud services directly. By going direct, business can achieve higher levels of application performance, greater security, and lower cost.

    The concept behind a cloud onramp is not nearly as complicated as the jargon around it. If your servers are in a data center and your public cloud service provider is either natively located in that data center or participates in a provider’s cloud exchange switch at that data center (or campus), you can arrange to have a cross connect into that switch and provision dedicated or virtual circuits that connect to your public cloud service provider.

  • How Cloud On-Ramps Work

    1. A colocation data center sets up a cloud exchange switch at its data center
    2. Major cloud service providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform) build edge nodes of their networks in that data center
    3. These cloud providers contract with the data center to connect to the cloud exchange switch
    4. A hybrid cloud customer leveraging both colocation and cloud services places equipment (including a router to connect to the switch) in that data center
    5. Customer orders a port and cross connect for the cloud exchange switch
    6. Customer orders virtual circuit(s) on cloud exchange portal to connect to specific provider
    7. Customer works with network services provider to connect to branch office locations

    Technically, the components of a cloud exchange consist of a single cross connect to a cloud exchange port located in a cloud exchange switch and the virtual circuits that communicate with cloud services. The exchange itself is an ethernet switching fabric accessible via a single cross connect providing private, automated one-to-many virtual connections to cloud service providers that are part of the exchange and can supply virtual circuits in minutes.

    The cloud exchange onramp provides flexibility, and that means there are a few decisions you should consider during set up:

    • Customers can choose to connect at Layer 2 or 3 of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model for a range of speeds that flow to a 1Gb to 10Gb physical port, with concurrent changes in cost.
    • Virtual circuit management can be via a portal web-based interface or via APIs for connecting larger volumes.
    • Customers must also choose between two types of ports that provide different benefits – the standard port or the buyout port. In the standard port, each circuit needs high traffic and there is a separate price for each port and virtual circuit. Buyout ports are more costly but offer an unlimited number of virtual circuits, and they are better suited for a large number of smaller bandwidth virtual circuits or circuit speeds outside the norm.  

    If your business leverages public cloud services, you should take into consideration which data centers offer this capability and what the business impact might be.  Where they are offered, cloud exchange onramps provide a much better quality of experience than the public internet or WAN. The cloud exchange option is more secure, more reliable, and has lower latency. The right set up can also save a lot of bandwidth costs while providing more flexible options.

    While the ultimate relationship for a cloud onramp is between a cloud service provider and its customer, other parties matter. You need to set up your network appropriately with your network service provider so that branch offices get the benefits described. Additionally, you need to find colocation data centers that offer this service.

    UpStack lets you easily find colocation providers that have onramps to your cloud service providers, so you don’t have to do all that work on your own. For a detailed audit on your existing infrastructure, we are glad to assist in your future deployment.

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