Amazon Web Services has launched a beta service that aims to connect a company's existing computing resources and Amazon's cloud as if they were part of one data centre.

Companies can use the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) service to move corporate applications, including email, financial systems and CRM applications, into the Amazon cloud without having to lose control, and users continue to access the application as if nothing has changed. The IT department can also use Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) instances within the VPC to add additional servers for disaster recovery or more web servers during a traffic spike, according to Amazon.

The new service connects internal resources and Amazon's cloud using a VPN connection based on IPsec. Today companies can run Amazon EC2 instances running Linux, Unix or Windows, Elastic Block Store for storage, and CloudWatch to monitor utilisation within a VPC. Over the coming months Amazon will add support for additional services, it said.

Administrators can create subnets to organize resources within the VPC and decide who can access them. Unlike traditional Amazon EC2 instances, which have Amazon-assigned internal and external IP addresses, those within VPCs only use internal IP addresses, chosen by the customer, and are accessed through the VPN.

On top of standard EC2 compute and data transfer charges, companies using VPC pay US$0.05 per hour for the VPN connection.

Cisco Integrated Services Routers and Juniper J-series routers have been verified to work with VPC, while the beta is limited to one VPC per account and 20 subnets per VPC.

Amazon is also adding more secure authentication to its web services. AWS Multi-Factor Authentication lets users add two-factor authentication when accessing account settings. Two-factor authentication means that users must produce something they know and something they have to authenticate their identity, in this case a password and a code from a one-time-password generator.

AWS Multi-Factor Authentication will be available in the coming weeks, according to Amazon.