December didn’t deliver the avalanche of services and features that surrounded AWS re:Invent in November, but AWS didn’t exactly close out the year quietly. Amazon put its cloud networking services front and center this month with tools to secure connections for cloud-based workloads, and it also added a larger GPU-powered instance type and an EU region in Stockholm.
The newest AWS cloud networking service, AWS Client VPN, enables a customer’s employees to remotely access their company resources either on AWS or inside on-premises data centers. An employee can access the service from anywhere via OpenVPN-based clients. AWS already had a virtual private network (VPN) service, which it now calls AWS Site-to-Site VPN. However, that product only connects offices and branches to an organization’s Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) environment.
Organizations can already host OpenVPN on Amazon EC2, so they’ll need to determine if it’s cheaper to go that route and incur the charges from both vendors, or opt for this bundled, pay-as-you-go cloud networking service. Client VPN is more expensive than OpenVPN on its own, so it would come down to how much an organization spends on its instances. AWS charges hourly for the service, per active client connections and associated subnets.
Another factor to consider is management, as an organization that uses Client VPN won’t have to maintain any EC2 instances. This is the latest example of AWS’ efforts to offer services that handle the infrastructure for the user — and the cloud vendor plans to do more of this in the future, to attract enterprise clients that don’t want to deal with all those operational complexities.
Organizations can now use a WebSocket API with Amazon API Gateway. Prior to this update, users of the service were limited to the HTTP request/response model, but the WebSocket protocol provides bidirectional communication. This opens the door to a wider range of interactions between end users and services, because the service can push data independent of a specific request.
We’ll have a more thorough analysis on this feature in the coming weeks, but AWS suggests developers can use this functionality to build real-time, serverless applications such as chat apps, multi-player games and collaborative platforms.
Also on the networking front, users can now access Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) and AWS CodePipeline directly through their Amazon VPC, through VPC endpoints and AWS PrivateLink to securely connect services and keep data off the public internet. The Amazon SQS update in particular is a “meat and potato” item that’s more important to some users than flashier services that debuted at re:Invent, according to one prominent AWS engineer.
Lastly, organizations can now share Amazon VPCs with multiple accounts. Large customers use multiple accounts to portion off different business units or teams for security or billing purposes, AWS said. VPC sharing takes responsibility for management and configuration out of the account holder’s hands, and gives it to the IT team, which can then doll out access to these shared environments as needed.