Amazon Web Services Gets Serious About Networking At Re:Invent 2021

AWS Private 5G launched this week. AWS

It’s December, the time of the year for mistletoe, holiday parties, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent. This year’s event did not disappoint, with its multitude of live and on-demand sessions spanning practically every technology topic under the sun. I paid keen attention to the announcements tied to telecommunications and networking and would like to share what I found most compelling.   

Private 5G as a Service 

Private cellular networking is poised to bring disruption and newfound agility to enterprises across many use cases. I have written on the subject extensively, and, if interested, you can find my latest take here. Now, AWS is jumping into the segment with AWS Private 5G, a turnkey solution designed to ease deployment. Though newly appointed president Adam Selipsky claimed at re:Invent that Amazon is first to market with such an offering, I’m afraid I have to disagree—start-up Celona has been in the market for some time, leveraging Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s vast channel network. 

That said, I like AWS’s approach of offering starter kits and charging enterprises for throughput versus SIM/device. I believe that this will allow customers to kick the tires and grow a measured deployment. AWS’s approach is multi-vendor, likened to a Chinese menu of core and radio access infrastructure offerings. The challenge will lie in successful integration, orchestration and automation. It is not clear to me that AWS has the integration fully baked relative to Celona that offers a single vendor stack. However, I am confident that the company is earmarking significant resources to make it a successful long-term offering. 

Cloud WAN

AWS Cloud WAN AWS

The other big networking announcement at re:Invent was AWS Cloud WAN, which promises to benefit both enterprises and communication service providers. AWS hopes to position its cloud backbone to ease the management of networks across on-premises locations. To achieve this objective, AWS Cloud WAN will provide out-of-box traffic segmentation and isolation capabilities and integration with major SD-WAN providers.

One example of the SD-WAN integration is with Cisco’s SD-WAN Cloud Hub. I see this as a best of breed partnership that will support use cases spanning site-to-cloud and site-to-site. Ultimately, this should allow Cisco customers to maintain control while accessing AWS workloads, simplifying SD-WAN provisioning through a single console. 

AWS is also partnering with Verizon and Telefonica at launch to provide core network diversity, extend operator reach and enhance private label SD-WAN service offerings. From my perspective, Cloud WAN is a natural service adjacency for AWS, and it could prove to be lucrative as well as disruptive given its dynamic nature relative to purpose-built global networks.

Wrapping up 

AWS is building a formidable presence in the networking space, as evidenced by the Private 5G and Cloud WAN announcements at re:Invent 2021. The company supports both enterprises and operators with these offerings, which could pose some conflict down the road. However, the same could be said for Nokia as it continues its enterprise push with Ericsson and its forthcoming Cradlepoint acquisition. Adding Celona into the mix makes for a highly diversified set of competitors, especially in the race to private 5G, and customers should benefit from the innovation and price competitiveness that results from it.