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February 2018

Megaport’s SDN Bypasses Best-effort Connectivity; Boosts Adoption & Elasticity of Enterprise Clouds

Megaport’s SDN Bypasses Best-effort Connectivity; Boosts Adoption & Elasticity of Enterprise Clouds

Networking progress today is propelled more by entrepreneurs than engineers.

Two years ago I attended a big US networking conference featuring panel talks with dozens of technical and business leaders at large telecoms, network equipment providers (NEPs) and OSS firms.

And stirring excitement at the conference were two new concepts, Software Defined Networks (SDN) and service orchestration.  Now amid all the banter over these two buzzwords, I could see a new Crusade was being organized to:

    Build the Big Telecom SDN!  Time to hire integrators, NEPs, and OSS vendors to create a custom SDN for each operator.  Only by building these expensive — but elegant and analytics-driven — machines could operators successfully manage the cloud and other service needs of their demanding enterprise clients.

Well, two years in the networking business is a lifetime.  And suddenly the dream of Big Telecom SDNs has faded somewhat.  Why?  Because scrappy entrepreneurial firms, like Megaport, have stepped up with a simpler and much lower-cost SDN offered as a service.

Megaport specializes in getting enterprises to the cloud.  And though their network-as-a-service SDN is still quite new, it’s already picked up precious support from leading cloud providers.  And with cloud vendors’ blessing, enterprises are steadily adding Megaport to their cloud requirements list.

Not only that, Megaport is also partnering with data centers and telecoms to enable delivery of its SDN.

Here then, to give us an in-depth view of Megaport’s solution is the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Eric Troyer.

Dan Baker, Editor, Top Operator: Eric, congratulations on a networking product that has caught a lot of people surprised.  I’m curious how your focus on direct connect to cloud was born?

Eric Troyer: Thanks, Dan.  I guess you could say the idea percolated in the mind of our Founder, Bevan Slattery.  His experience — particularly as a co-founder of PIPE Networks, and the founder of NEXTDC — allowed him to see inefficiencies and problems in delivering capacity and connectivity services.

His key insight was that the slow, arcane process of stringing up connectivity across dozens of carriers, managed service providers, and cloud providers had to change.  Why not automate provisioning and order connectivity through a simple portal or a mobile app?  Put another way, why can’t the network connectivity buying experience be the same as the cloud buying experience?

So the Megaport SDN fulfills that dream.  It’s about getting connected to services by easily buying, provisioning, and managing connectivity as if it’s another cloud-based transaction.

What Megaport’s SDN does is abstract away the complex process of ordering telecom circuits in a way that IT decision maker can understand.  In effect, the chief headaches of telecom engineering — LOA-CFA approvals, manual service order forms, and glacial provisioning cycles — all go away.

And rather than force the enterprise customer to commit to a long term (12-, 24- or 36 month) contract, we allow them to stand up services very quickly and dynamically — enabling a pay-as-you-go model.

How extensive is your network today?  And what are the specific benefits the enterprise customer gets?

We now have an SDN that reaches over 185 locations around the globe and connects to over 75 cloud onramps.  By mid-2018 we expect that to grow to around 220 locations, or data centers.  We launched originally in Australia, expanded into Hong Kong and Singapore, and from there into North America and Europe.

While our SDN services a wide variety of connectivity use cases, our trademark is connecting enterprises to the top cloud service providers.  Roughly 45% of all the connections that happen on the Megaport network today are customers directly connecting to AWS, Microsoft, Oracle Cloud, IBM Cloud, Google Cloud Platform, or Alibaba.

We basically solve some key network issues for the enterprise that reduce barriers to cloud adoption:

  1. How do I quickly, easily, and directly connect to public cloud providers — wherever they are? ;
  2. How do I dynamically move workloads around in that network? ; and,
  3. How do I deliver elasticity — right-size our capacity and improve network performance to cloud apps without paying too much?

Plus our private SDN network takes away the two biggest headaches inherent in best-effort internet connectivity: poor security and inconsistent performance.

The entire solution lives in the Megaport portal, where enterprise customers can easily discover where the cloud onramps are and connect to them.  Connecting to Megaport in only one data center provides access to over 75 cloud ramps at data centres around the world.

So if they click on the AWS logo on the portal, they see various options.  Do you want to hit AWS on the West Coast zone or the East Coast here in the U.S.?  The same goes for cloud onramps in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia: you can connect with whichever onramp suits your needs to reach the right availability zone and ensure optimal routing of cloud traffic.  This applies to Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM, Alibaba and a number of other service providers in the Megaport ecosystem.

Megaport also supports hybrid cloud models where an enterprise’s IT services are served by both their own private cloud infrastructure and the public cloud.  We provide connectivity between these two environments on demand and with the right amount of capacity.

Elasticity.  Can you give an example of how you use that?

Onboarding of cloud services is a great opportunity to take advantage of elasticity.  For instance, when an enterprise pushes a workload into a new cloud environment, or even between cloud environments there is a big one-time transfer of data from one site to the other.  They might kick up their capacity to 10 Gigabits per second to handle that transfer phase to move things quickly.

Later on, to support regular day-to-day traffic into that cloud environment, they then drop their speed down to somewhere around 500 to 800 megabits per second, and achieve some nice cost savings.  And in the Megaport network, once you enter your new requirements in the portal, the capacity is provisioned in less than 59 seconds.  So our customers can optimize their capacity from onboarding to a steady state environment all through a few clicks in our portal.

Because the provisioning of services is so rapid, and near-real time, it reduces the long lead times to standing up a new cloud environment.  It mirrors how enterprises are used to buying cloud services.

What’s Megaport’s customer base look like?

It’s actually a very good mix of enterprises, network service providers, CDNs, and managed service providers.  Within the enterprise segment we support an array of industries: financial services, energy, manufacturing, government, automotive, and digital media, for example.

It’s hard to categorize Megaport.  You are clearly not a telecom wholesaler in the sense of selling IP transit and big pipes: you focus on the cloud and application service layers.  And though the interface is managed directly by the enterprise, you also partner your cloud service layer to data center firms and telecom operators.

Yes, we are really supplying the elastic service infrastructure that sits above the pure network layer.  Our value proposition is definitely about optimizing how network capacity is quickly provisioned and changed on-demand to deliver high-value bits — and do so securely, cost effectively, at the performance level desired, and to the destination or service of choice.

And it’s true: we are also very keen on partnering our SDN with data centres and other network players.

For instance, Digital Realty has integrated with Megaport for their Service Exchange.  And so when a Digital Realty customer logs in to the Digital Realty Marketplace portal, they can buy and manage their entire data center experience.  If they want another cabinet, they can buy that.  Need additional power?  Sure thing.  Order a cross connect?  Absolutely.  Do you need a cloud connection with AWS or Microsoft?  Fine (and that’s where Megaport powers the connection behind the scene).

Now we have also made inroads in partnering with carriers and regional incumbents.  What they love about Megaport is the ability to bolt onto their network a new SDN cloud connection capability — without having to develop their own software stack.

The telco then goes ahead and offers that capability directly to their enterprise customers along with their other service offerings.  This is a big win-win.

We continue to expand into Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets around the world.  Historically, an enterprise, data center, or telco situated in a Tier 2 or Tier 3 market had no access to a cloud onramp unless they went the traditional route of ordering long-haul, fixed capacity and dealing with the big provisioning delays inherent with that.

Megaport allows data center operators, for example, to focus on their core competency, which, by the way, is not running a network, and positions them to stay competitive and relevant as the cloud expands in the IT landscape.  For enterprises, we ease the path to connecting to cloud services.

For the cloud service providers, we extend the reach of their cloud onramps to the locations where enterprises are ready to consume their services.

How does the enterprise user actually control their capacity and traffic inside the Megaport SDN?

When customers log in to our portal and order a port on our SDN, they specify their port size.  Megaport supports 1 Gig, 10 Gig, and 100 Gig ports..

Once the port is provisioned, customers then fine-grain control their connectivity by setting up a number of VXCs or Virtual Cross Connects to their desired service provider or location (data center).  You can have many VXCs on one port and can set each VXC to the appropriate amount of bandwidth you need.  So, for example, on a 10 Gig port, one VXC could be the capacity you allocate to a cloud service provider and you can set that capacity to 3 Gigabits per second.

Another VCX might be for capacity to a data center in another metro where you host a private cloud instance.  You can set that at 2 Gigabits per second for example and you are now using half the capacity of your 10Gbps port.  Want to connect to a Managed Service Provider for hosted VOIP and PBX?  No problem: just define another VXC and set your capacity.  There are over 250 service providers in our ecosystem.  And remember, once your port is provisioned and you are on our SDN, this capacity is turned up in less than 59 seconds.

I can see why the cloud service providers are eager to support what you’re doing: you’re enabling them to grow.

Yes, the larger cloud service providers really love it when you bring customers to their doorstep.

Up to now, cloud providers have focused on getting onramps at Tier 1 interconnection locations, but Megaport is helping them get cloud onramps in the data centers of Tier 2 and 3 markets.

In fact, roughly 66% of the direct cloud connections we enable are servicing customers in data centers that do not have a cloud onramp.  So you can see that our SDN is a very powerful tool for extending the reach of cloud services and expanding the addressable market for CSPs’ direct connectivity offerings.

Maybe a big cloud service provider just sold a very large cloud deal to an enterprise.  Great.  But there’s a problem: the billing doesn’t start until the solution is up and running.  That service can’t get up and running until the workload is onboarded.

In a typical telco environment, getting direct connectivity for onboarding can take in excess of 90 days and a whole lot of juggling providers and planning.  So Megaport helps accelerate revenue recognition and time-to-market for these cloud providers by onboarding customers faster.

Thanks for a very nice briefing, Eric.  What I love is the ingenuity of the solution: it transforms simple Ethernet connections into something very convenient to use.

That’s the beauty of the SDN.  The magic happens because the heavy lifting has been done: we’ve built out our ecosystem of service providers and  integrated our SDN with the cloud service providers’ platforms.  This greatly reduces manual steps and enables rapid provisioning. 

Plus there’s the point-and-click managing of capacity/services, taking away location problems, and offering flexible contract terms.  The whole point, of course, is to make buying networks as convenient as buying clouds.  So we’re thrilled to be a part of making the vision of SDN a reality.

Copyright 2018 Top Operator Journal


About the Experts

Eric Troyer

Eric Troyer

Eric Troyer is Chief Marketing Officer of Megaport since September 2015.  He has 19 years of telecoms and internet infrastructure experience in leading roles within marketing strategy, business development, product management, and engineering.

Previously, Eric was Director of Network Edge and Interconnection Strategy at Microsoft where he led planning and engineering teams tasked with network expansion and IP capacity acquisition to scale Microsoft’s cloud strategy.

Working at Equinix, he drove the Equinix Internet Exchange product to become the largest global IX platform and launched the company’s IPX product and mobility segment.   Contact Eric via

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