Amazon's virtual private cloud goes public

Following a limited public trial, Amazon's enterprise-oriented VPN connection offering has rolled out to all the company's EC2 cloud-computing users
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor on

Amazon is opening up its Virtual Private Cloud to all users of its EC2 cloud-computing services, in a public beta test launched on Monday.

The full beta of Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) follows a limited public test that began in August. At the time of that launch, Amazon said virtual private clouds were the most popular feature request from enterprise customers.

VPC is an enterprise-oriented feature that allows users to connect to Amazon's cloud-computing services via an IPsec virtual private network (VPN) link. The feature builds on other Amazon enterprise-friendly cloud efforts introduced over the past two years, such as reserved EC2 instances, longer-term deals and volume pricing. It also integrates service-level agreements and partnerships with big enterprise software vendors such as IBM, Oracle, BMC and Red Hat.

The term 'private cloud' usually refers to an on-premises datacentre that uses cloud-style technology. However, Amazon's VPC is a VPN tunnel that corporations can use to tie their datacentres with Amazon's cloud services.

Before the August limited public beta test, Amazon's VPC was in a private beta with companies such as Intuit and Eli Lilly.

Amazon said the VPC allows IT departments to specify an IP address range of their choosing; to examine cloud traffic with their existing security and network technology; and to manage EC2 with their own management software from CA, Citrix and others.

The VPC currently works with EC2, but Amazon said it plans to extend the connection technique to other Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources over time.

Most other cloud-computing providers offered VPN connections before Amazon, but Amazon's offering is different because of the level of automation involved and the scale at which it is being rolled out, according to industry analysts Gartner.

"What Amazon has done that's special... is to be the only cloud compute provider that I know of to fully automate the process of dealing with an IPsec VPN tunnel, and to forego individual customer VLANs for their own layer 2 isolation method," wrote Gartner analyst Lydia Leong in a research note at the time of the August launch of VPC. "Amazon is deeply committed to full automation, which is necessary at their scale."

Also on Monday, Amazon introduced an EC2 feature called Spot Instances, which allows customers to bid on unused EC2 capacity.

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