CenturyLink offers enterprises dynamic connectivity to Amazon Web Services

CenturyLink is offering enterprise customers dynamic connectivity to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to allow them to self-provision their network connections.

CenturyLink's Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections enables real-time creation and deletion of private Ethernet connections to AWS via a portal or an API.

Enterprise customers from around the globe can use Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections to tap into AWS via CenturyLink's more than 2,200 private and public data centers and over 100,000 on-net fiber commercial buildings.

Chris McReynolds, CenturyLink's vice president of core network services, said that his company will add configuration services with the rest of its cloud partners, including Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM and Oracle.

"So many customers are in a multicloud environment that we need to make sure we cover all of the major cloud providers," McReynolds said in an interview with FierceTelecom. "You need to connect to the right location because customers have applications spread over so many locations and you need to be able to reach them."

While a typical switched Ethernet service can take an average of two months, from signing the contract to turning the service up, Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections can cut that time frame down to a matter of minutes for the same service. 

Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections, which is part of the CenturyLink Cloud Connect portfolio, is available across North America, Asia Pacific and Europe.

Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections is currently a private Layer 2 network, but McReynolds said that CenturyLink was looking at adding dynamic Layer 3 connections sometime next year.

"A lot of our large customers prefer these Layer 2 connections that we just rolled out," McReynolds said. "Some of our customers don't have the networking expertise and are less sophisticated. Layer 3 connections, where we're managing the routing and complexity on their behalf, makes more sense for those types of customers."

API development

Working in conjunction with AWS' API, McReynolds said that CenturyLink developed its own API for Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections.

"Not that many people do the true dynamic network connection, but for those that do they don't extend that connection all the way into the customer's cloud environment," McReynolds said. "What Amazon has done is they created APIs that allowed us to finish the network connection that we put in place and connect it all the way into the customer's private cloud in Amazon.

"We developed our API through Amazon's API so that the customer can connect all the way to their cloud environment with a single pane of glass whether they are using our portal or whether they are leveraging our API to do that."

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CenturyLink has published its API so customers can develop it to create their network connections. McReynolds said an example of the customer tweaking the CenturyLink API would be a retailer that plans for additional capacity during the holiday season.

"Maybe they have a lot of their infrastructure that supports the steady state of business, but when they hit the peak season they are going to want to spin some of those applications into a public cloud provider, and then they need a network connection to support that hybrid environment," McReynolds said. "I think that's going to be very important over time. What we've seen today is most people use portals to leverage this type of capability. But for what we're looking at, you are seeing a lot more people pursuing APIs and applications consuming APIs to manage the network."

Pricing model

McReynolds said CenturyLink considered various billing models for Cloud Connect Dynamic Connections but settled on a pay-as-you-go offering.

"We went back and forth on this a million times," McReynolds said. "Do you make it monthly so it's predictable for a customer, or do you make it hourly and infinitely flexible like some of our competitors? AT&T and Verizon have more of a usage-based model. So ours is based on how long you use it. It is not based on the amount of data you send so it's a bit more predictable.

"We always need private connectivity in the cloud, and now we're making it consumable and real-time for the customers."

Competitors' arena

On the competitive front, McReynolds said that while AT&T and Verizon are direct competitors, neither of them focus on Layer 2 services to the cloud providers.

"Where we differentiate ourselves with them is that we don't just pick one layer of the network and they're very Layer 3-centric," McReynolds said. "We also have a big global fiber owned infrastructure that they don't have."

CenturyLink competes more directly with Megaport, PacketFabric and Equinex. McReynolds said those service providers focus more on local Layer 2 services and don't have same number of data centers that CenturyLink has.

"Customers have a lot of legacy applications of their own on private data centers," McReynolds said. "We really have the reach to connect their private data centers, or smaller public data centers, to the cloud providers."