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Software Defined Networking & the confessions of a network engineer in the cloud.

Before I start, I have a small confession to make. In a previous life I was paid to build and support large networks for major global organisations. I loved my job, late nights in datacentres racking, cabling and configuring large expensive boxes packed full of flashing lights was heaven for me. Moving forward today as the COO of an AWS Cloud Consultancy, much to the despair of my team, I still love to roll up my sleeves and dive back into networking when no one is looking.

I have to admit after spending the last 6 years working within Cloud Consultancies, these opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer. So when I was recently offered the chance to deploy a new AWS Direct Connect Service for a customer who we are migrating into the AWS Sydney region, I jumped at the chance.

I should point out that a prime driver for this client is to save money. They wanted to move out of their datacenter as quickly as possible, without spending $$$ on migration costs. No problem there, right!

Running through my options for quickly getting large volumes of data into AWS in Sydney; AWS Native Data Transfer services (e.g. Snowball, import/export) are not supported, so Direct Connect was my only option. What I needed was an AWS Direct Connect Service provisioned with lots of bandwidth, but I needed to keep the cost as low as possible.

Speaking to several Direct Connect vendors “in country”, the conversation sort of went like, “No problem Mike, sign up for a 12-month contract, if you want more or less Mbps, just call our service desk, log a call, we should be able to make the change in 24hrs”. At this point I’d loose interest. Having spent many years in the instant gratification world of AWS I find myself getting (unreasonably) frustrated when the IT services I want to use don’t align with the commercial models of public cloud (pay for what you use, when you need it).

However after speaking to the Megaport team, my hopes were raised, “..just provision a 1Gbps port for your customer, then use our portal to scale the network speed up and down as you need…”, Really you mean I scale from 1Gbps to 10Mbps to 100Mbps in minutes as I want, no service desk calls, no emails, no over-provisioning of bandwidth? Sounds too good to be true.

Moving forward several months, I can happily say the Megaport Direct Connect service does exactly what it says on the box. We’ve been configuring the Megaport service up and down like crazy to match our migration schedule. Our customer only pays for the service they are actually using! Sound familiar? The outcome is that we can quickly migrate our customer into the cloud, without burdening them with large networking transfer costs. Software Defined Networking, I love it!

Of course it’s not all roses, you still have a small fixed per month port charge and you still need to provision the last mile circuit if your data centre is not near a Megaport POP, which takes time.

But more importantly showing someone how to reconfigure the bandwidth of Megaport circuit on the fly from your phone, whilst in the stadium watching a Cricket match, can get you in trouble with your operations team. You have been warned.

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