Deploying Hybrid Edge Infrastructure with AWS Outposts and Equinix Network Edge
By Adam Imeson, Sr. Hybrid Edge SA – AWS
By Jordan Alexander, Partner Solutions Architect – AWS
UPDATE OCTOBER 2023: Equinix recently launched a new capability of Equinix Fabric called Fabric Cloud Router (FCR). This service offers customers an alternative method of connecting their AWS Outposts with its tethered AWS region. Network Edge is still a supported connectivity solution but some customers may find FCR better suited for some deployments. To learn more about FCR, please visit this Equinix blog post.
Today, customers who want to use AWS Outpost racks to build out their own hybrid edge infrastructure must manage their own network switches to connect their Outposts. Using these switches often requires the customer to go through a procurement process, purchase additional rack space, and define secure remote management practices.
AWS Outposts brings fully-managed Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure to virtually any datacenter, colocation space, or on-premises facility. An Outpost is an extension of an AWS Availability Zone (AZ) where customers can use familiar tools and APIs to deploy their applications on the same AWS hardware that we use in AWS Regions.
Outposts are fully managed by AWS end-to-end. For Outposts’ 42U rack form-factor, customers tell AWS how much capacity they need, and six to eight weeks later, AWS employees deliver racks of Outposts capacity, rolling them all the way to their final position at the customer’s site. Outposts racks arrive fully assembled and only need to be connected to power and the customer’s network to be activated.
Equinix is a leading colocation and connectivity provider and AWS Partner with a global network of datacenters that are interconnected via their Equinix Fabric software-defined network offering. Equinix offers Network Edge, a service where customers can create virtual network devices from a variety of vendors at any of dozens of locations around the world, directly connected to Equinix Fabric.
Equinix Network Edge eliminates the undifferentiated heavy lifting around the networking equipment required to support an Outposts deployment. Network Edge’s virtual devices can be provisioned in minutes through a self-service web console. Users can then access and configure the devices through the command line, like they would any other switch or router.
In this post, we will explain how AWS Outposts rack customers can use Equinix’s Fabric and Network Edge offerings to connect an Outpost. This solution removes the customer’s burden of procuring and managing network switches.
When deployed together, AWS Outposts and Equinix Network Edge allow customers to build applications at the edge without a single bolt of hardware to manage themselves. AWS and Equinix collaborated to test this solution in one of Equinix’s Solution Validation Centers.
To record the results, Equinix published a whitepaper on their integration with Outposts. The collaboration involved replicating the process in which an AWS Outposts customer would navigate through the procurement of the Outposts. We then worked together to clearly and easily provide the virtual switching and connectivity that an Outpost rack requires.
AWS Outposts are designed to be deployed into a customer’s datacenter or colocation site, and require customers to provide upstream connectivity back to the AWS Region the Outpost is tethered to. This approach works well for customers who have an existing footprint where they’ve already built out a network. At a high level, a typical Outposts deployment in a colocation facility is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1 – Typical AWS Outposts deployment.
Datacenter Connectivity Challenges
As the Outposts service has grown, we’ve heard from an increasing number of customers who are expanding to new locations where they don’t have an existing footprint. Without a network already in place, these customers have to procure and manage their own Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)-capable switches to connect their Outposts.
Customers have pointed out that switch procurement could be subject to supply chain disruptions, which can delay the switches’ delivery. Customers have noted the need to rent additional rack space for the switches, and that they have to define practices for remotely managing the switches.
Equinix’s Network Edge offering solves all of these challenges, with virtual devices which can be provisioned in minutes and don’t take up any physical space in a customer’s racks. Additionally, Network Edge offers a web-based CLI tool for straightforward remote management.
Connectivity with Equinix Network Edge
With Network Edge, an Outposts deployment can look like the following:
Figure 2 – Equinix Network Edge with AWS Outpost.
Equinix Fabric Ports are physical fiber connections Equinix provisions into the customer’s cage on request. Fabric Ports can connect directly to the Outpost’s patch panel and provide direct access to the Equinix Fabric software-defined network, which also hosts Network Edge.
Network Edge provides virtual network appliances which can be provisioned in minutes, so the customer doesn’t need to worry about supply chain issues or renting extra rack space. The customer can connect to their new virtual switch’s management interface through either an endpoint of their choosing or a browser-based CLI.
In their whitepaper, Equinix describes how to set up Fabric Ports and Network Edge with an Outpost. Additionally, AWS has worked with Cisco, Juniper, and Aruba, each of whom has published whitepapers on how to configure their respective switches to support an Outpost deployment. You can use these whitepapers as prescriptive guidance while configuring your Network Edge device.
The following steps outline how you can execute an Outposts deployment supported by Network Edge. For an in depth overview of the Outposts installation process, read this AWS Architecture blog post. These steps assume that you have an AWS account and an Equinix account.
- Work with your AWS team to identify an Outpost SKU with your desired capacity.
- Work with Equinix through their normal channels to obtain cage space in your desired location.
- Order your Outpost in the AWS Outposts console. Ensure that you are ordering your Outpost from the correct AWS region.
- In parallel, place an order for Fabric Ports through the Equinix console.
- Order two Network Edge virtual appliances through the Equinix console.
- Configure your Fabric Ports and Network Edge devices, such that each Fabric Port connects to a Network Edge device.
- Complete the Outposts Logical Networking Assessment (LNA) for your order, and configure your Network Edge devices to match the values you define in the LNA.
- AWS will visit the site to validate the network configuration prior to the Outpost install. At this step, AWS will ensure that your Network Edge devices are configured to correctly allow the Outpost to reach back to the AWS Region and establish its encrypted service link connection.
- AWS delivers and installs the Outpost.
We have heard our customers’ challenges around deploying connectivity to satisfy Outposts’ networking requirements, and we are continually iterating on better solutions. We have worked with Equinix to improve the efficiency of deploying hybrid edge infrastructure.
Using Network Edge to remove the heavy lift of deploying datacenter connectivity opens new possibilities for AWS Outposts customers. For example, if you work with Equinix’s Smart Hands offering to perform steps 8 and 9 above, it’s possible to have your Outpost installed without ever physically visiting the site yourself.
Additionally, because both Outposts and Network Edge allow for simple and secure remote management, you can then deploy your application on the Outpost and connect your application to any network destination reachable from Equinix Fabric.
To learn more about Network Edge, visit the Equinix Fabric page for Equinix Fabric locations, and visit the Equinix Network Edge page to learn how the service can provide flexible connectivity. To learn more about AWS Outposts, including information on common use cases and deployment practices, review the AWS Outposts documentation.
Equinix – AWS Partner Spotlight
Equinix is an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner and leader in colocation and network interconnection, including 33 AWS Direct Connect locations enabling hybrid cloud architectures to improve network performance, reduce operating costs, and conform with strict compliance regulations.