How to Use AWS Direct Connect for Effortless AWS Access


In today’s digital age, businesses and organizations of all sizes are increasingly turning to cloud computing platforms, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), to power their operations. AWS leads the industry, competing against Google and Microsoft Azure, to provide a wide range of cloud services, including computing power, storage, databases, machine learning, analytics, content delivery, and more.

It allows organizations to access and utilize IT resources and services on demand — without the need for large upfront investments in infrastructure.

A diverse range of customers, including startups, enterprises, government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits, leverage AWS for various purposes, such as hosting websites and applications, running data analytics, storing and managing data, and building artificial intelligence and machine learning models.

Notable AWS customers like Netflix, Airbnb, and NASA take advantage of AWS’ scalability, flexibility, cost-efficiency, and global reach to ensure high availability and low-latency access to services from virtually anywhere in the world. 

What is AWS Direct Connect?

Some organizations choose to rely on regular Internet connections to access AWS services, but many businesses require a greater level of performance and security, increased bandwidth throughput, and a more consistent network experience than the public Internet can offer.

The need for more secure data transfer, the high cost of downtime, and the productivity of employees and customers lead them to seek alternative solutions. That’s where AWS Direct Connect and partners in the AWS Direct Connect network come into play.

AWS Direct Connect is a dedicated network service provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that enables organizations to establish private and dedicated network connections between their on-premises data centers, office locations, or colocation facilities and AWS’s data centers.

This service offers a more reliable, secure, and high-performance alternative to connecting to AWS resources compared to traditional internet connections. It is particularly valuable for businesses with stringent security, compliance, or performance requirements and those seeking to optimize their network connectivity to the AWS cloud.

How Does AWS Direct Connect Work? 

By connecting directly to your AWS services, you can bypass the public internet altogether, eliminating latency and unexpected interruptions. Here’s how it works. 

AWS operates Direct Connect locations in various regions and cities around the world. Organizations choose a Direct Connect location that is geographically close to their on-premises location to minimize latency. Then they set up physical network connections from their on-prem locations 

First, you’ll need to decide which type of connection you need. AWS Direct Connect offers two primary types of connections to meet different organizational networking requirements. 

1. Dedicated Connections

A Dedicated Connection is a physical network connection that provides a direct, private link between an organization’s on-premises data center or network and an AWS Direct Connect location. You’ll have a dedicated connection to AWS services that is yours alone, not shared with any other customers, with port speeds of 1, 10, or 100 Gbps.

Typically, you’ll work with AWS directly to establish the connection, though you may work with an AWS Direct Connect Partner to help with the physical network configuration. AWS works with vetted partners in locations in major cities around the world. 

Organizations that opt for Dedicated Connections usually have significant on-premises infrastructure and need reliable, high-bandwidth, low-latency AWS connections. Often, they run real-time applications, such as video conferencing, online gaming, or financial trading platforms. Those in industries with stringent security and compliance requirements, such as healthcare and finance, may also go this route to maintain a private and highly secure link to AWS.

2. Hosted Connection

With a Hosted Connection, you’ll work with an AWS Direct Connect Partner to establish network circuits and your Direct Connect connection. 

When you set up Direct Connect in a particular location, you’ll be assigned physical equipment in that location. Your network is physically linked by a cable connecting your router to a partner network in the same location. Then your data travels through the partner router and private network to your AWS cloud.

Your data will travel along pre-established network links between your chosen partner and your AWS services, with port speeds of 50 Mbps to 10 Gbps, and you’ll share that link with other customers.

Hosted Connections are an attractive option for businesses that want a secure, reliable way to access AWS resources without the complexity of managing their own network infrastructure and want to benefit from rapid deployment. Additionally, organizations that require segmented access to multiple AWS resources or temporary connectivity solutions find Hosted Connections to be a convenient option.

How to Connect to On-Premises Data Centers

When it comes to establishing robust and reliable network connectivity between on-premises data centers and the expansive world of Amazon Web Services (AWS), careful planning and strategic decision-making are essential. Organizations must first assess their specific networking needs to determine the best approach for seamless integration with the AWS cloud.

Selecting the right port speed is one key consideration. AWS Direct Connect offers a range of port speeds, starting from 1 Gbps and scaling up to 100 Gbps. Organizations should evaluate their expected data transfer rates and growth projections to determine the most appropriate port speed, especially if scalability is required.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the best connection type for your organization. The choice between a Dedicated Connection or a Hosted Connection will depend on factors like your projected growth, in-house IT and networking expertise, project timelines, and required complexity.

As part of the connection setup process, your organization will need to provide AWS with authorization to establish the connection on your behalf. This grants them permission to create the necessary networking components and ensures the connection is established securely and according to your specifications.

Next, you’ll need to set up the physical connections. For Dedicated Connections, you may work with an AWS Direct Connect partner if you need support to establish physical network circuits between the AWS Direct Connect location and your on-premises data center.

This typically involves cross-connecting your network equipment to AWS equipment at the Direct Connect location. If you use a Hosted Connection, your AWS Direct Connect partner will set up the required network links between their equipment and AWS. Consider redundancy in your network connections to ensure high availability in case of network disruptions or equipment failure. 

When configuring your networking equipment, you’ll need to establish a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) session with AWS and configure BGP peering and route advertisements for a Dedicated Connection.

If you’ve opted for a Hosted Connection, your AWS Direct Connect partner will configure the network circuits and BGP peering on their end. If you will be using Hosted Virtual Interfaces (VIFs), you’ll need to configure VLAN tagging and IP addressing for each one.

Always test and validate connectivity between your data center and AWS resources to ensure your data is flowing as expected, and regularly review connections to proactively identify any network issues,

Physical Cross-Connect

A cross-connect is a direct, physical network connection between two pieces of networking equipment or devices within a data center or colocation facility. It is a physical cable or fiber-optic link that directly links one device, such as a router or switch, to another device, to facilitate the exchange of data and network traffic.

In a Direct Connect setup, a physical cross-connect is established within an AWS Direct Connect location. It connects an organization’s on-premises networking equipment to AWS’s networking equipment, which is located within the same data center or colocation facility, establishing the private and dedicated network connection between the organization’s data center and AWS.

Carrier Interconnection

Carrier interconnection, in the context of AWS Direct Connect, refers to the process of establishing network connections and partnerships between telecommunications carriers, network service providers, and AWS in order to facilitate the exchange of data traffic between their respective networks.

AWS Direct Connect provides private, dedicated, and high-speed network connections between an organization’s on-premises data center or network environment and AWS’s data centers.

Carrier interconnection within AWS Direct Connect extends the reach of AWS Direct Connect to additional geographical regions and data centers beyond what AWS offers directly. This enables these carriers to offer AWS Direct Connect as part of their service portfolio to their own customers.

Telecommunications carriers have extensive network infrastructure and data center presence, and many offer AWS Direct Connect services to their customers, each offering features to cater to different customer needs. Here are some examples:

  • AT&T NetBond for Cloud
  • Verizon AWS Direct Connect
  • CenturyLink Cloud Connect Solutions for AWS
  • Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric (ECX Fabric) for AWS
  • Megaport Cloud Router (MCR) for AWS Direct Connect
  • Tata Communications IZO™ Cloud Connect for AWS

Data Center Interconnection

Data Center Interconnection (DCI) with AWS Direct Connect involves an organization establishing dedicated and private network connections between its own data centers or colocation facilities and Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Many organizations use DCI with AWS Direct Connect to create hybrid cloud environments. This allows them to extend their on-premises data center capabilities into the cloud seamlessly. They can run critical workloads in their data centers while leveraging AWS services for scalability, backup, and disaster recovery.

DCI connections through AWS Direct Connect offer low-latency and high-throughput network performance. This is essential for applications and workloads that require real-time data access or rapid data transfers between on-premises and cloud resources.

AWS Direct Connect Use Cases

Organizations utilize AWS Direct Connect for a variety of applications including, but not limited to: 

  • Hybrid cloud deployments
  • Disaster recovery preparation
  • Data backup and archive
  • Real-time data processing
  • High-Performance Computing 
  • Private Connectivity to AWS Services
  • Compliance and Regulatory Requirements
  • Content Delivery
  • Multi-Region Redundancy
  • Migration and Integration
  • Video Streaming and Broadcasting
  • High-Frequency Trading

These use cases demonstrate the versatility and value of AWS Direct Connect in enabling secure, high-performance, and scalable network connections for organizations across various industries and scenarios.

Establish a Secure, Reliable Connection to AWS with Perimeter81

Perimeter 81’s AWS network solution offers zero trust remote access and site-to-site interconnectivity without the hassle of maintaining your own facility. Access your AWS network and resources with scalable cloud-edge architecture, real-time visibility, and the highest security standards. Perimeter 81 is a recognized AWS Advanced Technology partner.

Need help selecting the best AWS Direct Connect solution for your organization? 

Schedule a consultation today.


How do you get started with AWS Direct Connect?
AWS setup is a complex and time-consuming process with several steps involved:

1. Assess Your Requirements: Determine your network requirements, including bandwidth needs, data center locations, and security considerations.
2. Choose a Connection Type: Decide whether you need a Dedicated Connection from AWS or a Hosted Connection from an AWS Direct Connect Partner.
3. Select an AWS Direct Connect Location: Choose an AWS Direct Connect location that’s geographically convenient to your data center or colocation facility.
4. Set Up Physical Connectivity: Establish the necessary physical connections, either by working with AWS or an AWS Direct Connect Partner, depending on your chosen connection type. 
5. Configure Network Equipment: Configure your on-premises networking equipment to establish BGP peering and route advertisements with AWS.
6. Create Virtual Interfaces: If needed, create Hosted Virtual Interfaces (VIFs) for segmented access to AWS resources.
7. Test and Validate: Test the connection and validate that it’s working as expected by checking BGP sessions and data flow.
8. Monitor and Maintain: Implement monitoring and maintenance practices to ensure the ongoing health and performance of your Direct Connect connection.
9. Consider Redundancy: For high availability, set up redundant Direct Connect connections and networking equipment.
10. Implement Security and Compliance: Apply security measures, such as encryption, and adhere to compliance standards as needed for your organization.
11. Documentation and Best Practices: Keep thorough documentation of your Direct Connect setup and follow best practices for network design and management.

This summary outlines the key steps to get started with AWS Direct Connect, but it’s important to refer to AWS documentation and consult with AWS or an AWS Direct Connect Partner for specific setup details and guidance tailored to your organization’s needs.
What’s the difference between AWS Direct Connect and VPN?
Both AWS Direct Connect and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can establish network connectivity to Amazon Web Services.

AWS Direct Connect offers dedicated, high-performance, and private connectivity to AWS resources — bypassing the Internet — making it suitable for organizations with strict security, performance, and compliance requirements, especially in hybrid cloud scenarios. 

VPNs, on the other hand, are more flexible, cost-effective, and accessible from various locations. However, since they rely on secure tunneling over the public internet, they may have variable performance characteristics. Although data moving through VPNs is encrypted, security is still a concern.

The choice between the two depends on an organization’s specific networking needs and priorities. Some organizations may use both AWS Direct Connect and VPNs in their network architecture to address different use cases.
What is the Difference between Cross Connect and Direct Connect? 
Cross Connect and Direct Connect both create a dedicated, private connection for data exchange that is more secure, more reliable, and better performing than the public Internet.

Cross Connect refers to a physical network connection between equipment like routers within the same data center or colocation facility while Direct Connect provides long-distance, dedicated, and secure connections between an organization’s on-premises network and cloud resources (such as AWS). 

Cross Connect is typically used for intra-facility networking, while AWS Direct Connect is used for inter-facility, hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud networking.
What are the advantages of AWS Direct Connect?
AWS Direct Connect offers several significant benefits if your organization is seeking secure and reliable network connectivity to Amazon Web Services, including:
– Private and dedicated connectivity between your on-premises data center, office, or colocation facility and AWS
– Data privacy, security, and reduced exposure to Internet-based threats
– Low-latency, high-bandwidth access to AWS resources, ideal for real-time data access and high-throughput workloads
– Cost efficiency with lower data transfer fees than data sent over the public internet
– Global reach with connections in regions all around the world
– Flexibility and scalability to accommodate growth in your organization
– Built-in network redundancy to ensure high reliability and failover capabilities in case of network disruptions or hardware failures
– Encryption options to meet security standards and regulatory compliance requirements
– Seamless high-speed connection to AWS resources for flawless data center consolidation and migration
– Granular control over network traffic to optimize network management
What is AWS Private Link vs. Direct Connect?
Both AWS PrivateLink and AWS Direct Connect are designed to bypass the public internet when accessing AWS services or resources. They provide private and dedicated network connections, enhancing security, reliability, and performance compared to internet-based connections.

PrivateLink uses Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) endpoints to establish private connections between your VPC and AWS services, ensuring data privacy and security. It does not directly connect to your on-premises network and resources.

AWS Direct Connect, on the other hand, provides dedicated, high-speed, and private network connections between on-premises data centers or office locations and AWS, primarily focusing on hybrid cloud connectivity.

Both services offer private, isolated, and secure connections ideal for organizations with strict security, compliance, and performance requirements.
What are Two Types of AWS Direct Connect Connections?
When you set up AWS Direct Connect, you’ll need to decide between two different connection types:

1. A Dedicated Connection – This is a dedicated, physical link between your organization’s on-premises data and an AWS Direct Connect location. It typically involves cross-connecting your network equipment to AWS equipment at the Direct Connect Location.
2. A Hosted Connection – This is a physical connection between an AWS Direct Connect delivery partner and AWS services and resources. Your partner will provide the necessary network links between their equipment and AWS, but you will share that connection with other customers.