Community Blog Compare and Connect – Part Two

Compare and Connect – Part Two

This is a two-part blog series that introduces Alibaba Cloud's suite of networking products and shows you how each product can be used to power up your business.

Weighing up the essentials of low latency, high throughput, zero downtime, network gateway technologies with Alibaba Cloud's world-class cloud networking solutions.

According to a recent Reuters report, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group serves nearly a billion active digital economy users annually in China.[i] Moreover, active monthly mobile users on the group's Chinese retail marketplaces reached 755 million at the end of June 2019.[ii] Whatever these users are doing, they rely on Alibaba Group subsidiary - Alibaba Cloud's infrastructure and networks. Given a recent Gartner report that stated Alibaba Cloud is number three in the world for cloud database management services,[iii] we can only imagine what the figures are like globally.

Continued consumer demand for faster networks with lower latencies and higher throughputs means that the vast amounts of network traffic managed by Alibaba Cloud requires supporting infrastructure with an impeccable specification. Specifically at the weakest points of network convergence – the gateways through disparate networks such as Alibaba Cloud Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs), managed and external on-premise data centers, business networks, the public cloud, and the Internet – Alibaba Cloud's infrastructure requires robust and reliable technology.

In the first part of this blog we looked at two of Alibaba Cloud's network gateway products, VPN Gateway and Smart Access Gateway. Both these products manage and secure network gateway connections where traffic data is most exposed and vulnerable to cyberattack. Alibaba Cloud's VPN Gateway product is the cloud common product for this while the Smart Access Gateway, unveiled in May 2019,[iv] is a higher spec, plug-and-play gateway service that includes dedicated hardware device options, offering more flexibility, reliability, ease of use, and lower cost for similarly scaled gateway scenarios.

In the second part of this blog, we will look at the other major players in Alibaba Cloud's network gateway product range, enterprise services Express Connect and Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN).

Express Connect

Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect network gateway service manages immense data flows at distinct network perimeters with guarantees on throughput, reliability, and security.[v] Unlike Alibaba Cloud's VPN Gateway, data is transmitted through Alibaba Cloud infrastructure alone, avoiding all Internet connections. This significantly reduces the risk of data interception.

Express Connect has dedicated leased-lines of up to 100 GB bandwidth for a single link and TB-scale bandwidths for multi-path routing. These physical connections link on-premise data centers with Alibaba Cloud networks and offer the highest specifications for a plug-and-play service that routes enormous volumes of network traffic.

Express Connect improves on the Smart Access Gateway by including SD-WAN (software-defined networking in a wide area network), dedicated or shared physical Ethernet services that connect on-premises networks to Alibaba Cloud access points, and a Virtual Border Router service.[vi], [vii] On-premise data connectivity offers cross-region deployment, high bandwidth connectivity, high availability, and super easy migrations.

Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect for on-premise data connectivity across regions

Complex business setups are possible with Express Connect to ensure service delivery acceleration when necessary and enhanced data security.

Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect for complex business connectivity setups

Let's look at some scenarios for connecting an on-premise data center to a VPC with Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect.

First, build highly-scalable, highly-available, network gateway architectures for large enterprises with multiple datacenters. The diagrams show a connection via CEN (Cloud Enterprise Network) but this is not a requirement. We will look at CEN in the next section.


You might decide Express Connect is ideal for rock-solid disaster recovery.[viii]


Or build out a more basic network architecture for non-critical systems.[ix]


Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect is a great choice for fast, stable, and secure communication between enterprise-level cloud environments and on-premise data centers. However, when you need global-scale enterprise-level guarantees for scalability and connectivity, Alibaba Cloud also has the solution. Enter the Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN).

Cloud Enterprise Network

Committed to continuous improvement of all products and services, Alibaba Cloud has developed the next step in the evolution of cloud networking for large global enterprises. Implementing a full mesh network solution[x] with dynamic routing and multi-link redundancy, we welcome Alibaba Cloud's Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN).

The evolution of Alibaba Cloud's network solutions[xi]

CEN is a state of the art, cross regional, global enterprise level, full mesh network routing solution.[xii] Like Express Connect, Smart Access Gateway, and VPN Gateway, CEN simplifies network traffic routing across distinct network edges. However, in CEN's case, the amount of traffic routed over wide distances to multiple nodes is gargantuan, removing the need for a complicated linear network topology.

Cloud Enterprise Network high level view

CEN connects to more than 60 Alibaba Cloud access points worldwide which reinforce network speed, reliability, and availability.[xiii] It implements automatic route distribution and dynamic learning which improves latency, signal quality, and security.

Setting up Alibaba Cloud's CEN is a simple plug and play process that allows customers to connect up their Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs), Virtual Border Routers (VBRs), and on-premise data centers.[xiv] You can also plugin Alibaba Cloud's Express Connect, Smart Access Gateway, and VPN Gateway products into a CEN environment. The only manual configurations required are bandwidth specifications for cross-region implementations.

How Does CEN Stack up against Express Connect?

With its mesh network architecture, orders of difference more powerful than linear point-to-point connections, CEN is instantly the most performant option. Remember, CEN can also include Express Connect within its topology allowing for greater efficiency at network boundaries.

Comparing point-to-point with a mesh topology

Laborious manual configuration tasks in Express Connect are eliminated by CEN which implements dynamic learning algorithms for routing between access points. No bandwidth packages are necessary in a single region, while cross-region bandwidth packages compare favorably against point-to-point purchases at similar scales.[xv]

Let's compare CEN and Express Connect against common routing connection scenarios.




Spring into Action

We have seen the full range and power of Alibaba Cloud's network gateway products, from simple linear network components to global enterprise-level, multi-routing mesh solutions. Whatever your business requirement, Alibaba Cloud can take care of it.

Alibaba Cloud offers the most extensive range of reliable and robust, tried and tested, cloud network products and services. As well as a plethora of Chinese startups, established businesses, and research centers, global corporate giants such as Philips, SAP, KPMG, and Ford entrust their business infrastructure with Alibaba Cloud.[xvi]


[i] https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-alibaba-listing-hongkong/alibaba-launches-13-4-billion-hong-kong-listing-to-fund-expansion-idUKKBN1XN10H
[ii] https://www.alibabagroup.com/en/news/press_pdf/p190815.pdf
[iii] https://en.prnasia.com/story/archive/2707286_AE07286_0
[iv] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190529006029/en/Alibaba-Cloud-Unveils-New-Products-Features-Global
[v] https://www.alibabacloud.com/products/express-connect
[vi] https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/44848.htm
[vii] https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/44854.htm
[viii] https://www.alibabacloud.com/solutions/hybrid/cloud-backup
[ix] https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/27787.htm
[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_networking
[xi] https://www.slideshare.net/AliCloud/achieve-global-interconnection-with-cloud-enterprise-network
[xii] https://www.alibabacloud.com/product/cen
[xiii] https://www.alibabacloud.com/campaign/cloud-enterprise-network
[xiv] https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/59870.htm
[xv] https://www.alibabacloud.com/help/doc-detail/66205.htm
[xvi] https://www.featuredcustomers.com/vendor/alibaba-cloud/customers

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