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Amazon does virtual private clouds

Next step, real private EC2 clouds?

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Early this morning, the Amazon Web Services division of online retailing giant Amazon announced something that more than a few businesses have been waiting for: a complete virtual private cloud hosted on the company's Elastic Compute Cloud.

With the new Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, or VPC for short, the company is carving out a chunk of its EC2 cloud and isolating it, then giving enterprises the ability to directly link to the virtual server infrastructure through a virtual private network (VPN) link over the Internet and use the same firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other security resources they deploy for their internal and external IT equipment and users. From the standpoint of system and network administrators, this makes a chunk of EC2 virtual machines logically indistinguishable from the other infrastructure they manage every day.

Right now, only the EC2 compute cloud service is available through the VPC offering, but other AWS services are expected to be delivered with the VPC packaging at some undefined point in the future. The VPC service allows companies to create EC2 instances and assign them internal (to the company) IP address ranges and subnets and then link internal IT servers, storage, and networks to these EC2 resources using an encrypted IPsec VPN link.

Under the VPC bundle, you don't have to make lengthy commitments, just as it’s the case with the EC2 and other AWS cloud services. The VPN link costs 5 cents per connection-hour, and it costs 10 cents per GB to move data into the EC2 instances through the VPN and data flow out of the EC2 instances into the data center varies depending on the volume.

It costs 17 cents per GB for the first 10 TB of data per month coming out of the EC2 images, and the price can get as low as 10 cents per GB if customers move over 150 TB per month in aggregate. (That's not chump change, but rather $15,000. A nice piece of business for Amazon, if it gets customers moving that much data.)

You can find out more about Amazon VPC here.

What would probably make some enterprise shops more comfortable is to actually be able to get an Amazon cluster running inside their own data centers, and then let Amazon VPN into these boxes and manage them locally to the company and actually put them inside the corporate firewalls. For server-hugging, security-wary CIOs, even having a VPN is not enough when you are talking about mission-critical applications and corporate data. They want the data to only be on the physical disks in their physical data center, and for the applications to be running there, too.

It would be interesting to see Amazon AWS move from cloud to virtual private cloud to on-site private clouds as it builds out its business, and if customers are hesitant to use the VPC offering except for application test and development and maybe some Web services, it is reasonable to expect that Amazon will start deploying infrastructure locally for the big IT organizations that are willing to pony up the space and cash to get it.

In addition to the VPC announcement, Amazon said that it is now allowing multi-factor authentication, which requires AWS users to provide a six-digit, rotating code provided by a physical device supplied by Amazon before they can make changes to their AWS virtual infrastructure settings. AWS MFA will be available in a few weeks, and you can find out more here.

Amazon also said that in the fall, the company will allow multiple AWS accounts to be consolidated, so companies with many AWS users can get one bill instead of many each month from Amazon. The consolidated bills will offering the ability to drill down and see which account is doing what, which is what the bean counters and managers need. ®

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