Gina Narcisi
March 21, 2016

Telecommunications and cable giant Comcast is allowing business customers to privately connect with cloud behemoth Amazon Web Services (AWS), the telecom provider told partners last week.

Strategic service providers who partner with Comcast will now be able to round out their cloud offerings using Comcast's robust network and the sought-after AWS cloud platform, Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channels for Comcast Business, told CRN.

"Our solution is perfectly outfitted for partners selling cloud services today to take advantage of our network to complete their cloud solutions," Schlagbaum said. "Their clients are needing this kind of connectivity, and for us, this completes the roster of a lot of the network services we've been selling by going all the way to the cloud."

Via AWS Direct Connect, partners can help their business customers bypass the public Internet and connect privately to their AWS compute and storage services, Comcast said. Comcast, a member of the AWS Partner Network, is offering up connections from one to 10 Gigabits per second to AWS through Comcast's Business Ethernet service. Businesses can privately connect to AWS via either Comcast's fiber-based services or its coax-based connectivity options.

"Partners can provide connections into AWS facilities in Ashburn, Virginia, and San Jose, California, and then they can connect that cloud to our network, where we have over 1 million [Ethernet-enabled] buildings around the U.S. and another 40 million residential locations. Remote workers can have private connectivity for their house all the way to the AWS cloud," he said.

Comcast has offered AWS direct connectivity in stealth for about two years, but the carrier is finally ready to formally announce the offering to partners, Schlagbaum said.

One Comcast partner, Five Nines Networks, has already begun selling private AWS connectivity to two of its Comcast business customers. The Seattle-based solution provider expects the service to be a hit for almost all of its Comcast business customers, said Scott Hughes, owner of Five Nines Networks.

Comcast's AWS Direct Connect service gives Five Nines another recurring revenue stream, Hughes said.

"The new capability within the Comcast portfolio automatically added revenue for us -- nine out of 10 customers have some level of connectivity into AWS or another cloud, so it's an easy business decision," he said.

Comcast's competitors offer similar services. AT&T customers can reach AWS privately via AT&T's NetBond offering. Verizon business customers have been using the carrier's Secure Cloud Interconnect service to reach AWS privately since 2014. Verizon rolled out Secure Cloud Interconnect to its channel [4] partners in 2015.

Comcast's offering allows customers to stay on the Comcast network from end to end -- from the AWS data center to the office or home location -- instead of relying on a third-party network to bridge any gaps. By staying on-network, the user experience, speed and security of Comcast's AWS service ranks superior when compared with other solutions on the market, Comcast's Schlagbaum said.

Five Nines has sold Comcast's AWS connectivity offering to one of its business clients, a next-generation recycling company that relies heavily on AWS' scalable cloud infrastructure, Hughes said.

"Since the [business customer] is in AWS, it only makes sense to use a product like the Comcast/AWS Direct Connect," Hughes said. "It's far and away a better way to connect to cloud service providers -- it increases security and reliability for the same cost of an IP VPN connection to AWS."

Because the connection to AWS is private, there are fewer network elements standing in the way of traffic. Fewer network elements means fewer hops, and better performance, Hughes said.

"Decreasing the hop count lowers latency, and we've seen that we decrease the amount of time it takes to get to AWS servers by as much as 400 percent," he said.

Comcast's solution with AWS won't be the last private connectivity announcement for the carrier. Comcast has relationships with other cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure, Comcast's Schlagbaum said.

"We'll be talking with strategic solution providers about how they can utilize this as a part of their cloud offerings," he said.