New – Cloud WAN : A Managed WAN Service

Update July 13, 2022we have added a list of blog posts and technical resources provided by our partners, in order to provide readers with additional information on this service.

I am pleased to announce the availability of AWS Cloud WAN, a new network service that makes it easy to build and operate wide area networks (WAN) that connect your data centers and branch offices, as well as multiple VPCs in multiple AWS Regions.

Typically, large enterprises have resources running in different on-premises data centers, branch offices, and in the cloud. To connect these resources, network teams build and manage their own global networks using multiple networking, security, and internet services from multiple providers. They most probably use several technologies and providers to manage cloud-based networks, to connect their data centers to the AWS cloud, and for the connectivity between on-premises data centers and branch offices. All of these networks take different approaches to connectivity, security, and monitoring, resulting in an intricate patchwork of individual networks that are complicated to configure, secure, and manage.

For example, to prevent unauthorized access to resources running across locations that are connected with different network technologies, network operation teams must piece together different firewall solutions from different vendors and then manually configure and manage the policies between them. Every new location, network appliance, and security requirement exponentially increases complexity.

With Cloud WAN, networking teams connect to AWS through their choice of local network providers, then use a central dashboard and network policies to create a unified network that connects their locations and network types. This eliminates the need to configure and manage different networks individually, even when they are based on different technologies. Cloud WAN generates a complete view of your on-premises and AWS networks to help you visualize the health, security, and performance of your entire network.

Cloud WAN provides advanced security and network isolation, and I am excited by the possibilities offered by this network segmentation. You can use policies in Cloud WAN to easily segment your network traffic regardless of how many AWS Regions or on-premises locations you add to your network. For example, you can easily isolate network traffic from retail payment processing from other traffic on your corporate network while still giving both segments access to shared corporate resources. Another example would be the isolation of your development and production environment by creating logical network segments for each environment. This makes it easier to ensure consistent security policies when connecting large numbers of locations with your VPCs especially when your policies need to apply to large groups with unique security and routing requirements. Cloud WAN maintains a consistent configuration across Regions on your behalf. In a traditional network, a segment is like a globally consistent virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) table or a layer 3 IP VPN over an MPLS network. Segments are optional; smaller organizations may use Cloud WAN with one single network segment, encompassing all your traffic.

In addition to network segmentation and the simplicity it brings to your network management tasks, I see four principal benefits of using Cloud WAN:

Centralized management and network monitoring dashboard – Network Manager provides a central dashboard for connecting and managing your branch offices, data centers, VPN connections, and Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN), as well as your Amazon VPC and AWS Transit Gateway. This dashboard helps you monitor and view the health of your network in one place, simplifying day-to-day operations.

Centralized policy management – You define access controls and traffic routing rules in a central network policy document, expressed in JSON. When you update a policy, Cloud WAN uses a two-step process to ensure accidental errors do not affect your global network. First, you review and validate that your changes will work as expected in production. Once you approve the changes, Cloud WAN handles the configuration details for the entire network. You can change your policy document using the AWS Management Console or Cloud WAN APIs.

Multi-Region VPC connectivity – Cloud WAN connects your VPCs across AWS Regions. Using a simple network policy document, you can create global networks that connect all of your EC2 resources, or you can choose to segment them across Regions.

Built-in automation. Cloud WAN can automatically attach new VPCs and network connections to your network, so you do not need to approve each change manually. It reduces the operational overhead involved in managing a growing network. You do this by tagging attachments and defining network policies that automatically map attachments with a certain tag to a specific network segment. With this tagging structure in place, you can choose which attachments can join a segment automatically, which segments require manual approval, and if attachments on the same segment can talk to each other, all based on the tags you choose.

Let’s get started
To get started with Cloud WAN, I open the AWS Management Console. In the VPC section, there is a new entry for AWS Cloud WAN on the menu on the left. Creating and configuring a global network is a four-step process.

First, I start by creating a global network and a core network.

Cloud WAN create global networkAfter entering the Name and an optional Description, I select Next.

Cloud WAN create core networkAfter giving the core network a Name and a Description, I enter my ASN range and the list of Edge locations, and I enter a Segment name and Segment description for my default segment. The default segment is automatically enabled in all selected edge locations.

Second, I define and attach my core networking policy. The core policy defines the rule to control network access across segments and AWS Regions. Third, I configure segments and segment actions. I can see all routes and filter by network Segment and Edge location.

Cloud Wan - RoutesAnd finally, I register the existing Transit Gateway to the new global network.

Cloud WAN - register transit gateways

Once configured, you have a single monitoring dashboard for your global network. You have access to the network inventory.

Cloud Wan - Monitoring inventoryOr you can have more granular and detailed views with Topology graph and Topology tree.

Cloud Wan - Monitoring topology

Other considerations
During the preview period we ran for Cloud WAN, we often received the question: “When should I build networks with Cloud WAN versus Transit Gateway?” This is a valid question because both Transit Gateway and Cloud WAN allow centralized connectivity between Amazon VPC and on-premises locations. Transit Gateway is a Regional network connectivity hub and is optimal when you operate in a few AWS Regions or when you want to manage your own peering and routing configuration or prefer to use your own automation.

On the other side, Cloud WAN is a managed wide area network (WAN) that unifies your data center, branches, and AWS networks. While you can create your own global network by interconnecting multiple Transit Gateways across Regions, Cloud WAN provides built-in automation, segmentation, and configuration management features designed specifically for building and operating global networks. Cloud WAN has added features such as automated VPC attachments, integrated performance monitoring, and centralized configuration.

But the world is better together, you can peer your Transit Gateways with Cloud WAN’s Core Network Edges (CNEs) and benefit from the central management and monitoring capabilities I described earlier. The peering between Cloud WAN and Transit Gateway keeps your options open – you can migrate from one to another, or use Cloud WAN to centrally connect all your existing Transit Gateways.

But then, AWS released SiteLink in December last year. When should you use SiteLink, and when should you use AWS Cloud WAN? Depending on your use case, you might choose one, the other, or both. Cloud WAN can create and manage networks of VPCs across multiple Regions. SiteLink, on the other hand, connects Direct Connect locations together, bypassing AWS Regions to improve performance. Direct Connect is one of the several connectivity options that you will be able to natively use with Cloud WAN in the future. As of today, you interconnect Direct Connect with Cloud WAN via Transit Gateway peering connections.

What Our Partners Are Saying
Cloud WAN integrates with leading SD-WAN, network appliance, ISV, and systems integrators. Our partners have provided us with tons of helpful feedback during the preview period. They are ready to help you get started with Cloud WAN. Here are some blog posts and other resources they published since launch.

Availability and Pricing
Cloud WAN is available today in US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), Africa (Cape Town), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Canada (Central), Europe (Frankfurt), Europe (Ireland), Europe (London), Europe (Milan), Europe (Paris), Europe (Stockholm), and Middle East (Bahrain) AWS Regions.

As usual, there are no setup or upfront fees, and billing is on-demand based on your actual usage. There are four factors that determine what you pay for using AWS Cloud WAN. First, the number of Core Network Edges (CNEs) deployed. Second, the number of attachments to each CNE. An attachment might be an Amazon VPC, a VPN, or an SD-WAN. Third, the number of Transit Gateways peered with your CNEs. And fourth, there is a data processing charge for traffic sent through each CNE.

On top of these factors that are specific to Cloud WAN, sending data between Regions triggers an EC2 inter-Region data transfer out charge. While EC2 inter-Region data transfer out is billed separately from Cloud WAN, it’s a factor in the total cost of the Cloud WAN service. The pricing page has the details.

Go build your global network!

— seb