Top 10: why your cloud is only as good as your network

Saad Khan| Ameinfo

Revenue from cloud computing products and services are due to increase from around $20bn to almost $150bn by 2020 – a total of 8% for all technology spend, according to research by Bain & Company. Their study, titled The Five Faces of the Cloud indicates that the Middle East needs a better network to the cloud.


1 – Your cloud workload will evolve as applications change

Today you are running Software as a Service (SaaS), or infrastructure applications that stay resident in the provider cloud, often locked behind semi-proprietary architectures. This is a logical first implementation that’s common to most technology roll-outs. The next step is also predictable – a turn to a more open architecture with standards in place for APIs and management tools.

By taking this step, you unlock the potential to federate your private data centres with multiple provider cloud data centres, enabling greater workload mobility and the ability to deploy entirely new applications that will require a better network to run effectively.

2 – Management wants to see your cloud performance metrics

As cloud implementations mature from trials to full deployments, management will demand to see tangible benefits of the cloud deployment. The way you design your network can be a deal breaker to success. The network is the strategic lever to achieve the cloud benefits of lower costs, reduced deployment time and new functionality. In short, the cloud is only as good as the network.

3 – Cloud storage is becoming an increasingly large percentage of corporate data

Organisations in the region typically use cloud infrastructure for simple storage backup to cloud data centres over low speed IP networks, trickling the data asynchronously as the network permits. Typically this use case fits small businesses with relatively low amounts of storage.

As the market evolves, larger enterprises will also want to take advantage of lower cost cloud storage for large amounts of storage. They will want a network that can dynamically respond to moving terabytes when the data needs to move — without bottlenecks, security holes or dropped packets.

4 – A more efficient network is critical for cloud data centre connections

IT organisations in the Middle East are highly motivated to drive efficiencies — first through data centre consolidation, then virtualisation, with the next step being to use cloud services. The network is also a key enabler for cloud service providers to operate multiple data centres as a shared pool of virtual data centres, which could enable a 35% reduction in total cloud data centre resources. The network is the key ingredient that ties everything together, serving as a backplane across the data centres for flexible delivery of applications and services.

5 – Inter-data centre networks are going virtual too

A virtualised network partitions resources in many different ways, e.g., virtual circuits (EVPLs), virtual wavelengths (Optical Transport Network – OTN), virtual switches (VSIs) and virtual networks (VPNs, Optical Virtual Private Network – OVPNs).

Virtualisation of the network provides network efficiency, i.e. coordination of the bandwidth and topology to the specific application need at a point in time. This eliminates the need to size all data centre network interconnection facilities for a peak capacity that is only rarely used, which lowers costs because you don’t need to make unnecessary network equipment investment.

6 – You will want to automate cloud use cases using an intelligent network

Workload orchestration between cloud data centres, and between enterprise and cloud data centres, will be driven by policy-based software automation tools.

On-demand change in performance parameters such as bandwidth scalability will be accomplished through high-level software interfaces into the network control planes, not by an operator using a command line interface to the equipment. This performance-on-demand will be triggered at the application level, ensuring that the adjustments to the network and to the cloud meet the business requirements.

7 – The cloud network needs to scale dynamically

A north-south traffic flow is user-to-machine through a tiered IP network architecture. This reflects a client/server model and is exercised in the cloud for SaaS-type applications where the application is simply moved from the in-house data centre to the cloud provider data centre server. East-West traffic flows are machine-to-machine within, and increasingly between, data centres.

Such traffic has much more stringent quality-of-service requirements. In the near future, we’ll see at least an order of magnitude more East-West data workloads driven by applications like storage synchronisation, inter-data centre storage virtualisation and virtual machine migrations. This means the cloud network needs to be designed for performance to meet the traffic flow change and intensity challenges of the future.

8 – You need a network that can move a large amount of data in a short amount of time

You need a flatter Layer 0/1/2 network architecture between data centres that delivers better scalability, latency and deterministic performance. With this architecture, the network won’t be a bottleneck when you need it the most, and it will deliver the lowest cost per bit throughput.

9 – Stuff happens, so you need to plan for the worst

Whether you use the cloud as a fail-safe to on-premises operations or as your primary IT resource, you need to be prepared for a worse-case scenario such as a natural disaster or unexpected peaks in traffic. You or your cloud provider may need to move hundreds of your virtual machines and/or data stores from the current data centre to another data centre in the cloud — potentially alongside those of many other enterprises.

To move these workloads in time to avoid or recover from disaster, without damaging your business, you’ll need a network that can rapidly add and reallocate capacity to your Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery data centre.

10 – A virtual data centre architecture — a Data Centre Without Walls — means cost savings and operational efficiency

The ‘Data Centre Without Walls’ concept describes an architecture that creates a multi-data centre, hybrid cloud environment able to function as a set of virtual data centres from a common resource pool to address any magnitude of workload demand and offer seamless workflow movement. Enterprises will want to access cloud resources anywhere, anytime.

Service Providers will want to offer cloud services differentiated by state-of-the-art, programmable network access, and economies of scale that leverage their data centre footprints. Cloud Providers will handle uncertain demand requirements and failover by more efficiently allocating workloads across multiple data centres. The cloud backbone network is the critical link for providing cost-effective scalability, security, and on-demand services that enable the virtual data centre.

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