The Road to the Cloud Runs Through the Network

Advanced cloud architectures will require advanced network infrastructure in the data center.

By Arthur Cole | Posted Jul 11, 2014
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The cloud is emerging as one of the key drivers of network modernization in the data center. Across the board, enterprises are beefing up internal infrastructure to make it easier to provision server and storage resources for stakeholders, and the best way to do that is with a top-flight network.

Private cloud needs drive network infrastructure upgrades in the data center

According to Infonetics, the average spend for enterprise networking upgrades was $1.1 million last year, and if current trends hold, 2014 should see a healthy 20 percent gain. While wireless LAN technology is a top priority, most CIOs report that the need to build private clouds is paramount. This upgrade is being fueled by two main factors: the need to provide services and applications directly to users to stem the flow of data to public clouds, and the desire to ultimately build hybrid networks that can provide both the ease of use and scalability that emerging, data-driven industries require.

It seems that much of the spending these days is on raw physical infrastructure, like new 10 GbE switches and state-of-the-art core and edge systems that support advanced network architectures like SDN and NFV. Oddly, though, these are not prerequisites for the cloud, and, according to top executives at OpenStack developer Nebula, may even be detrimental. ENP’s Sean Michael Kerner buttonholed founder Chris Kemp and CEO Gordon Stitt recently; they said SDN may be overkill for many organizations that simply want to push more data onto the cloud. If you think building a cloud is tough, try doing it on top of a brand-new, and still largely unproven, network architecture.

As mentioned in the Infonetics reports, however, cloud adoption and wireless expansion are likely to move in tandem, although they will focus on separate areas of the network. Dimension Data reports that the wireless play will focus largely on the access side of the network, primarily an expansion of single GbE access ports and 10 GbE uplinks. As well, much of this infrastructure is being wired with Power-over-Ethernet as a means to maintain connectivity even if utility power goes down.

And in an odd twist, it seems that the cloud itself is starting to offload some of the networking responsibilities that both cloud computing and wireless communications are fueling. NTT Com recently launched a new cloud networking service that utilizes SDN and NFV technology from Virtela Technology Service to enable pay-per-use networking capabilities for branch office and remote sites. The service eliminates the need for long-term contracts and allows organizations to scale their budgets according to data loads. The service can be managed and provisioned via a customer-facing portal.

Networking has always been the glue that holds the data environment together, and that won’t change as the enterprise transitions from physical to virtual to cloud architectures. In fact, networking will become doubly important, given that server and storage resources will always be there for the taking in the cloud, but your ability to access them and send and retrieve data will rest largely on the network infrastructure you put in place.

In the future, speed and agility driven by advanced network architectures will take precedence over capacity and raw computing power.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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