Amazon continues to roll out new AWS features at breakneck speed. The latest in a slew of announcements is Amazon's bringing its Virtual Private Cloud out of beta. Amazon Direct Connect lets customers establish a dedicated network connection from the customer site to AWS. Amazon has also added a new feature to AWS Identity and Access Management that gives the ability to perform "identity federation" to grant access to AWS to corporate users without having to create new identities. Companies can now wire up directly to AWS without passing data over the public Internet, and avoid saturating their Internet connection with application data.

According to Amazon, Direct Connect is compatible with all AWS resources, so customers can hook up directly from their office, data center or other locations to Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Simple Storage Service (S3) and so on.

We've covered VPC previously, which allows companies to set up a private space within the AWS cloud that's only available via a VPN connection. However, until introducing its Direct Connect feature, companies have had to access the private cloud over their public connection. The company is pitching this as a way for organizations to hook into Amazon Web Services for applications that require "large and frequent data transfers," without inducing data congestion.

Amazon's Tera Randall gives the example of bio-pharmaceutical companies and film studios that are looking to extend their current data center into Amazon's cloud. "Many also want to use an isolated and controlled network space so they can simply extend their current data center into the cloud and use the same IP addressing scheme - as if it's in their datacenter. Organizations do just that with Amazon VPC, which allows you to provision a private, isolated section of the AWS cloud."

For more information and our take on the implications of Direct Connect, read our story here by David Strom.

Roll this up with Amazon's new identity features, and the company is providing a fairly compelling set of features for companies that want to hook their private network or cloud into Amazon's services almost seamlessly.

Direct connect is being rolled out first from Amazon's US-East region (via the Equinix facility in Ashburn, VA), with more rollouts planned over the next few months in San Jose, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Singapore.

Pricing for Direct Connect is $0.30 an hour for a 1Gbps port, and $2.25 an hour for a 10Gbps port – so a company utilizing a 10Gbps port for 30 days, all day, would be looking at about $1,620 a month for the service. Data transfer into AWS is free, and transfer out is $0.02 per GB. Amazon's Identity and Access Management is a free feature of AWS, so companies won't pay extra for tapping into the new identity features – just the additional services they'll be using.