Introduction to Direct Link

Introduction to Direct Link

The Direct Link products are designed to provide connectivity from an external source into a customer's SoftLayer private network.  This is commonly implemented to support hybrid workloads, cross-provider workloads, large/frequent data transfers, private workloads, or to ease administration of the SoftLayer environment.

Direct Link Product Options

SoftLayer offers three Direct Link products for customers that are looking for a direct connection to the SoftLayer private network backbone with low latency and speeds up to 10Gbps.

Direct Link Network Service Provider

Direct Link NSP allows customers to terminate a dedicated single-mode fiber cross-connect into the customer's SoftLayer private network.

Termination Location: SoftLayer point of presence (PoP)

Typical Deployment Time: 10-15 business days after circuit reaches the PoP.

Cross-Connect Details: SoftLayer provides a Letter of Authorization (LOA) that a customer uses to order a fiber Ethernet (Single Mode Fiber only, either 1Gig-LX or 10Gig-LR optics) run from a customer cage/provider to the SoftLayer cross-connect router (XCR) infrastructure.  The media must be a 1310nm wavelength DWDM connection.

Port Speed Options: 1Gbps or 10Gbps

Approximate Latency: ~1.5ms within the local area (data centers with the same three letter prefix - DAL, AMS, MEL, etc).  See http://lg.softlayer.com/ for live pop-to-pop latency measurements.

Colocation Services: None.

Redundancy: Requires Direct Link connectivity into 2+ locations or the selection of a location with a secondary XCR available and a second direct link request.

Local/Global Accessibility Options: Local provides access to data centers with the same three letter prefix as the pop (DAL, AMS, MEL, etc).  Global add-on is required to reach other locations.

Common Use Cases: Hybrid workloads, cross-provider workloads, large/frequent data transfers, private workloads, environment administration.  Primarily selected when the desired PoP does not have the desired Direct Link Cloud Exchange provider, for high-performance workloads, or for compliance requirements that cannot be satisfied by the Direct Link Cloud implementation model.

Product-Specific Limitations:

  1. The SoftLayer fees for Direct Link NSP cover the cost of port termination on the SoftLayer infrastructure. Customers are responsible for any fees associated with reaching the PoP from a remote network and any cross connects needed within the PoP facility.  SoftLayer will not order a cross-connect on a customer's behalf.
  2. SoftLayer will not collocate any customer equipment in our network POPs. Customers must work with their provider to determine whether or not they need to collocate any equipment in the same facility where the SoftLayer network PoP exists.

Order Process:

  1. Customer verifies network provider capabilities to reach the appropriate PoP and cross-connect into the SoftLayer environment.
  2. Customer opens a Direct Link NSP request and completes the requested information (Engineering assistance can be requested).
  3. SoftLayer provides an LOA for the connection.
  4. Customer confirms their circuit has reached the PoP and is completed by the carrier.
  5. Customer order the cross connect to the SoftLayer XCR (cross connect router) which usually takes between 2 and 10 business days to complete. This includes the patch down to the SoftLayer termination port.
  6. Customer provides SoftLayer with the cross connect completion notice from the facility provider.
  7. IP turn up on the SoftLayer networking infrastructure will be completed within 3 business days after the cross connect is complete.

Direct Link Cloud Exchange

Direct Link Cloud Exchange allows customers to leverage a Cloud Exchange provider to deliver connectivity to SoftLayer.  This typically provides connectivity at a reduced cost because the physical connectivity from SoftLayer to the Cloud Exchange Provider is already in place and is shared amongst other customers.

Termination Location: SoftLayer point of presence (PoP)

Typical Deployment Time: 5-10 days after circuit reaches the exchange.

Cross-Connect Details: Physical cross-connects are maintained between SoftLayer and the Cloud Exchange provider.  Customers request a "Virtual Circuit" from the Cloud Exchange Provider which establishes logical connectivity to SoftLayer.

Port Speed Options: 1Gbps or 10Gbps

Approximate Latency: ~1.5ms within the local area (data centers with the same three letter prefix - DAL, AMS, MEL, etc).  See http://lg.softlayer.com/ for live pop-to-pop latency measurements.

Colocation Services: None.

Redundancy: Requires Direct Link connectivity into 2+ locations or the selection of a location with a secondary XCR available and leveraged by the Cloud Exchange provider.

Local/Global Accessibility Options: Local provides access to data centers with the same three letter prefix as the pop (DAL, AMS, MEL, etc).  Global add-on is required to reach other locations.

Common Use Cases: Hybrid workloads, cross-provider workloads, large/frequent data transfers, private workloads, environment administration.  Primarily selected when the desired PoP has the desired Direct Link Cloud Exchange provider.

Product-Specific Limitations:

  1. Customers are responsible for any fees associated with reaching the PoP from a remote network and any fees incurred with the Cloud Exchange provider.
  2. SoftLayer will not collocate any customer equipment in our network POPs. Customers must work with their provider to determine whether or not they need to collocate any equipment in the same facility where the SoftLayer network PoP exists.
  3. Direct Link Cloud Exchange availability varies between locations.  Customers should reference http://www.softlayer.com/direct-link for current availability or contact their SoftLayer account manager to confirm current or future availability.

Order Process:

  1. Customer verifies network provider capabilities to reach the appropriate PoP and cross-connect into the associated Cloud Exchange provider.
  2. Customer opens a Direct Link Cloud Exchange request and completes the requested information (Engineering assistance can be requested).
  3. Customer contacts the Cloud Exchange provider and negotiates connectivity to their exchange.
  4. Customer orders a "virtual circuit" through the Cloud Exchange provider and references the Ticket ID of the SoftLayer Direct Link request as the "Request ID" or "Authorization ID"
  5. IP turn up on the SoftLayer networking infrastructure will be completed within 3 business days after the virtual circuit request is complete.

Direct Link Colocation Provider

Direct Link Colocation provides connectivity similar to Direct Link NSP, but adjacent to a SoftLayer Data Center for higher performance use cases.  SoftLayer also offers a variety of Colocation services with this product.

Termination Location: SoftLayer Data Center (DC)

Typical Deployment Time: 30-60 days after all requirements are finalized and contracts are executed.

Cross-Connect Details: SoftLayer provides dual 1G or 10G fiber connections from the SoftLayer cross-connect router (XCR) infrastructure to the customer's colocation environment as part of the deployment.  If colocation services are not requested (typically existing environments being connection), SoftLayer provides a Letter of Authorization (LOA) that a customer uses to order fiber Ethernet (Single Mode Fiber only, either 1Gig-LX or 10Gig-LR optics) runs from a customer cage to the SoftLayer cross-connect router (XCR) infrastructure.  The media must be a 1310nm wavelength DWDM connection.

Port Speed Options: 1Gbps (Dual) or 10Gbps (Dual)

Approximate Latency: ~0.5ms within the local data center.

Colocation Services: Yes.

Redundancy: SoftLayer provides dual connections to two cross-connect routers (XCRs) as part of the product.  Customers configure BGP with equal-cost multipath (ECMP) to establish redundant connectivity.

Local/Global Accessibility Options: Local provides access to the specific data center selected for colocation.  Global add-on is required to reach other locations.

Common Use Cases: Non-standard compute technologies, dedicated storage requirements, leveraging existing IT investments.

Product-Specific Limitations:

  1. Direct Link Colocation requires a specific contract between SoftLayer and the customer.  This contract outlines the terms and conditions for the product, the pricing for the colocation environment, and the term commitment for the services.  A minimum 12 month contract is required.
  2. Provider connectivity is limited to the On-Net providers of the selected Data Center.

Order Process:

  1. Customer identifies colocation and connectivity requirements and works with the SoftLayer sales team to finalize and execute a contract and technical addendum.
  2. SoftLayer executes a build order with the colocation provider for the requested environment and services.  Deployment is typically within 30 days of order execution.

Direct Link Connectivity

The SoftLayer Direct Link service is a routed Layer 3 service.  SoftLayer assigns a small private subnet to build a point-to-point network between SoftLayer's cross-connect router (XCR) and the customer's edge router (CER).  SoftLayer and the customer configure BGP in order to exchange routes between the environments.  SoftLayer places the customer into a VRF to allow for the implementation of non-unique routes to the private address space of the customer's remote network.

Basic Network Configuration

SoftLayer assigns a /31 or /30 for each connection, configures an interface/IP on the SoftLayer cross-connect router (XCR) infrastructure.  The customer utilizes the provided IP to configure the interface on their customer edge router (CER).  The customer will utilize the SoftLayer XCR IP as a next-hop for any traffic destined to SoftLayer.  SoftLayer will utilize the assigned CER IP as a next-hop for any traffic destined for the remote network as advertised via BGP.

Customers should define their remote network from standard RFC1918 private space.  For new environments, it is recommended not to use the 10.0.0.0/8 space.  For existing environments that utilize 10.0.0.0/8, a more detailed assessment is recommended to ensure that there is not a conflict with the SoftLayer services network or the networks assigned to the customer's account.

BGP Configuration

SoftLayer requires BGP to be configured between the environments in order to exchange routes.  SoftLayer will assign a private ASN for use by the customer.  Alternatively, customers can utilize their own public ASN.  The customer's preference is requested at the time of order and the specific ASN is provided during the implementation process.

With VRF, SoftLayer will advertise the specific private subnets assigned to a customer's account.  Customers should advertise the networks they wish to be reachable from the SoftLayer private network.  SoftLayer has filters in place to prevent advertising the following networks: 0.0.0.0, 10.0.0.0/14, 10.198.0.0/15, 10.200.0.0/14, 169.254.0.0/16, 224.0.0.0/4, and any networks assigned to a customer's account.  Customers will need to properly manage the advertisements to/from SoftLayer.

For customers electing to build redundancy at a supported location, SoftLayer supports the implementation of equal-cost multipath to provide load balancing and redundancy across the two links.  This should be requested at the time of order.

VRF Details

SoftLayer requires that all accounts utilizing a Direct Link product migrate to a VRF.  This allows customers to advertise routes to their self-defined remote networks.  Note that this does not allow customers to utilize self-defined IPs on the SoftLayer network.

Migrating to a VRF is done during the setup process.  It requires a short outage window (up to 30 minutes for large accounts with multiple VLANs/locations) where the backend network VLANs will lose connectivity with each other as they are moved to the VRF.  The VRF migration will be scheduled with the implementing engineer.

VRF eliminates the "VLAN Spanning" option for the account as all VLANs will be able to communicate unless a Gateway Appliance is introduced to manage traffic.  VRF also limits the ability to use SoftLayer VPN services as it is not compatible with Softlayer SSL, PPTP, and IPSEC VPN services.  An alternative is to use the direct link itself for management of your servers or run your own VPN solution (such as a Vyatta) that can be configured with different types of VPN.  After migrating to a VRF, SSL VPN typically works when a VPN connection is made to the same DC location as the compute that is being accessed, but does not allow access globally.

BYOIP and Other Considerations

Except in special circumstances covered below under "custom private addressing", SoftLayer does not offer BYOIP on the private network, so traffic with a destination IP not assigned by SoftLayer will be dropped.  However, customers can encapsulate traffic between the remote network and their SoftLayer network using GRE, IPSec, or VXLAN.  Most commonly, the BYOIP environment is implemented within the scope of either a Network Gateway (Vyatta) or Vmware NSX deployment.  This allows customers to use any IP space that is desired on the SoftLayer side and route back across the tunnel to the remote network. With that being said, this is a configuration that will have to be managed and supported by the customer, independent of SoftLayer. Furthermore, this configuration can break connectivity to the SoftLayer services network if the customer assigns a 10.x.x.x block that SoftLayer has in use for services. This solution will also require that each host that needs connectivity to the SoftLayer services network and the remote network have 2 IP’s assigned (one from the SL 10.x.x.x block, and one from the remote network block) and static routes setup on the host to ensure traffic is routed appropriately. You will not be able to assign whatever IP space you want directly on the SoftLayer hosts (BYOIP) and have it routable on the SoftLayer network inherently. The only way to do this is as outlined above and is not supported by SoftLayer.

Alternatively, customers frequently assign a remote network block for use in a NAT table configured on their remote edge router.  This allows customers to limit changes required to both networks, while translating traffic into network space that is compatible with both networks.

Custom Private Addressing

Occasionally, during Direct Link on-boarding, a customer is unable to resolve IP addressing conflicts between their on-premise and SoftLayer private networks using the methods described above. If this occurs, a SoftLayer engineering or sales representative may recommend custom private addressing (CPA). While there is no additional cost associated with CPA, this feature has unique requirements and limitations that you should understand thoroughly before agreeing to its use. These are described in detail in documentation that will be provided to you by the SoftLayer representative that recommends CPA. The key requirement is that custom private addressing can only be activated on a new, empty SoftLayer account and a new Direct Link connection. It is not possible to convert or migrate existing SoftLayer resources to CPA.
Custom private addressing lets you host SoftLayer servers in a valid private IPv4 address range (10.x.x.x, 192.168.x.x or 172.16.x.x) of your choice. CPA provides a subset of common SoftLayer services in a special internally-routed address range, 161.26.x.x, that leaves private IPs free for customer use. While CPA allows you to define up to 5 private IP ranges (referred to as CPA Networks), each Direct Link connects with only one CPA Network. If additional CPA Networks exist in the account, they will not be accessible through Direct Link.
Custom private addressing leverages VRF and BGP. The implementing engineer will assist you with the details related to CPA.

Direct Link Limitations

  1. Each Direct Link connection requires a unique order.  If you require multiple connections, please open a Direct Link order for each connection.
  2. The SoftLayer services network will not be accessible from your remote networks directly.
  3. SoftLayer will not allow customers to back haul traffic between their remote sites across the SoftLayer backbone. The Direct Link product is meant for your remote networks to be able to privately communicate with your SoftLayer infrastructure.
  4. Direct Link requires utilizing a VRF (Virtual Routing and Forwarding) instance.  
  5. VRF is not fully compatible with Softlayer SSL, PPTP, and IPSEC VPN services.
  6. Direct Link requires BGP in order to implement routes to a customer's remote network.
  7. Changes to the Direct Link infrastructure are limited to 8AM to 5PM US Central time.

Pricing and locations

A list of available locations and pricing can be found here: www.softlayer.com/direct-link