Level 3 Communications (NYSE: LVLT) is giving customers another private connection option to the cloud by offering a direct network connection to Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Window Azure.
Offered as part of the Level 3 Cloud Connect Solutions partner ecosystem, the two companies are giving enterprise customers the benefit of connecting to the cloud with dedicated speeds and security that don't exist with a public Internet connection.
Current Level 3 customers can connect to the new joint service via various access methods, including MPLS-based Ethernet Virtual Private Line Service, Virtual Private LAN Service and IP/VPN Service.
"The public Internet was the way to reach these cloud applications, but as enterprises have begun to experiment with them and use them more, what got us to moving down this path is we kept getting orders from customers trying to connect to these cloud services with private connections," said Paul Savill, SVP, Global Core Product Management at Level 3 Communications, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "They turned us onto the fact that they tried the public Internet and it wasn't working for us from a performance standpoint, so we realized it was the network and we needed to get into these guys with private connections."
In addition to gaining higher dedicated speeds, the other benefit is security. Users will be able to access to Level 3's Security Solutions and Application Performance Management Services.
"The second main reason they are doing this is security," Savill said. "When you poll enterprises about moving more things to the cloud, you'll hear them say that they are worried about security and the public Internet is considered a risk from that perspective."
Initially, Level 3 and Windows Azure will offer the joint service in limited customer trials in San Jose, Calif., and Ashburn, Va. The two companies will make it available to other global regions throughout the year.
Besides Microsoft, Level 3 has established a similar relationship with Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), one of the largest cloud service providers.
While Microsoft and Amazon are key initial partners, Savill said it would like to work with other players that offer similar capabilities.
Such partnerships not only give Level 3 more cloud options, but also enable potential partners to reach into a broad set of enterprise IP VPN nodes attached to the network.
"We're in active discussions with a lot of cloud service providers to bring them into this, but we wanted to start with Microsoft and Amazon to get the ball rolling," he said. "We also want to bring a lot of the smaller guys in and there's a big value proposition for a lot of these cloud service providers for wanting to attach to Level 3's ecosystem."
While it's still an early development, Level 3 envisions developing an application programming interface (API) with cloud service providers that could provide what Savill described as "easy connections between the enterprise locations and the cloud service provider facilities."
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