Don’t Skimp on Cloud Connectivity

"Inadequate networking could make your cloud more of a hindrance than a help to next-generation data functionality."

By Arthur Cole | Posted Oct 24, 2014
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Enterprise executives have focused so intently on building and provisioning cloud infrastructure over the past year that a number of key details are in danger of being overlooked.

Leading the list is the issue of connectivity. With top providers offering ready-made cloud environments over the public internet, it is easy to forget that the smooth exchange of data between newly provisioned cloud resources and legacy data systems can be easily scotched by traffic spikes on shared networks.

But the enterprise is big business, both to the cloud providers and the carriers that service them, and they are both working overtime to provide the kind of connectivity that satisfies enterprise availability and reliability demands.

Nigel Stitt, CEO of Australia’s PacNet, is one of the top promoters of private line connectivity for hybrid cloud environments. Not only do private lines offer the performance and security required of enterprise workloads, but they can increasingly be delivered on as-needed bases with bandwidth and other key attributes scaled to meet data demands. They are also usually delivered with the same type of SLAs used to establish minimum performance levels for cloud resources, allowing the enterprise to set those minimum performance levels for end-to-end data environments. The end result is tighter integration between cloud-based and on-premises infrastructure, which in turn furthers the goal of a unified, distributed data presence across wide geographic areas.

Many carriers and cloud providers, in fact, are entering into formal agreements to provide robust connectivity to enterprise clients. Amazon and AT&T, for example, recently teamed up to integrate the NetBondservice into AWS, increasing the number of private lines and raising AT&T’s VPN capacity to handle disaster recovery and other critical functions. Through dynamic provisioning and other measures, AT&T says it can reduce the cost of cloud connectivity by 60 percent, while guaranteed bandwidth should cut latency in half for most customers.

Smaller providers are also taking advantage of improved connectivity to enhance their service offerings. San Francisco’s Digital Realty Trust, for example, has launched private-line access to VMware’s vCloud Air platform as a means to supplement existing resource environments for data offloading, application development and other functions. The setup will feature both on-demand and pre-provisioned services, allowing the enterprise to quickly establish fully distributed data environments that integrate seamlessly with legacy infrastructure using high-bandwidth, dedicated data pathways.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is taking the idea of integrated cloud connectivity a step further by providing private cloud and gateway hardware for its Azure cloud supplemented by high-speed links to off-site resources. The Cloud Platform System (CPS) consists of Windows Server, System Center and Azure Pack software stacks residing in a multi-rack hardware configuration that scales up to 512 processors and 282 TB of storage, all of which is tied directly to the Azure cloud via a 60 Gbps link capable of supporting up to 8,000 virtual machines. The platform is part of Microsoft’s overall strategy of shifting its entire enterprise portfolio to a cloud footing.

Dedicated connectivity to the cloud will most certainly be more expensive than shared, public service. But with dynamic provisioning and advanced orchestration, the hope is that overall costs will be lower than standard cloud offerings, and a bargain compared to traditional data center provisioning.

The enterprise has a lot to look forward to in the cloud, namely resource flexibility and scalability plus a steady stream of state-of-the-art hardware and software options to drive data performance and business productivity. But inadequate networking could make your cloud more of a hindrance than a help to next-generation data functionality.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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