Networking Your Way to the Optimal Cloud

It’s pretty rare these days to find an enterprise deploying new infrastructure without incorporating the cloud somehow. Networking, of course, is a key part of that infrastructure, so it is natural that emerging network platforms would seek to accommodate cloud computing as much as possible. What’s surprising is the many ways this is being done. From service-based management stacks to software-defined data connectivity, the focus these days is almost exclusively on linking the various elements of the distributed architecture under a common framework.

According to IT consultant Kevin Jackson, modern enterprises need to completely rethink the way network resources are provisioned, managed and optimized. The cloud represents not just a new infrastructure, but a new information delivery model, one that stresses flexibility, programmability and the need to be available everywhere on virtually any device. To meet these needs, he says the new network needs to be heavy on advanced functions like data-intensive analytics, parallel and clustered processing, automated routing, and dynamic bandwidth allocation. At the same time, it needs to incorporate a host of new mobile requirements, such as advanced identity access and authorization tools, geo-centric policy enforcement and infrastructure-centric security and protection capabilities.

Ironically, now that cloud computing is harnessing massive amounts of computing power for the average enterprise, the microprocessor industry is turning to cloud networking as the next major growth area. As Topeka Capital Markets analyst Suji Desilva pointed out at Interop earlier this month, the insatiable demand for cloud computing is leading to an equivalent uptick in network traffic, which is good news for everyone from Broadcom and Mellanox to Intel. While much of the recent networking activity has centered on virtual and software architectures, hardware is likely to get a boost as well, particularly as the enterprise gravitates toward open source solutions that need to scale while still providing line-speed performance for highly dynamic workflows. As well, there is a growing need for programmable silicon that can support automated, even autonomous, networking.

The cloud also puts a lot of pressure on the wide area network (WAN), which is why much of the action in software-based architectures is focusing on the connection between the enterprise data center and the cloud provider. Riverbed, for one, expects SD-WAN technology to grow from its current 1 percent market penetration to more than 30 percent by 2019, which is why the company has upgraded its existing line of WAN optimization appliances with cloud- and application-centric capabilities. And it is making no bones about disrupting the entire network routing market with systems like the new SteelConnect, which provides single-click provisioning and orchestration of thousands of virtual routers that can link directly to AWS and other providers.

But even if advanced networking is fueling connectivity to the cloud, the cloud is simplifying the management and deployment of those networks in return. Huawei is the latest to further this trend with its new Cloud Managed Network platform that aims to streamline the often convoluted processes that go into planning, deploying, monitoring and scaling wired and wireless networks. The stack is tied to the company’s Agile Network portfolio of switches, access routers and other components that are slated to hit the channel early next year, and it features an integrated mobile operations and management app as well. The system can be deployed by the enterprise directly, as a service-based platform by cloud providers and/or carriers, or accessed from Huawei’s own public cloud under the company’s All Cloud initiative.

An enterprise cloud without adequate networking is like peanut butter and jelly without any bread. It’s edible, but not very convenient.

As the enterprise becomes more steeped in cloud computing, the pressure to maximize the value of its deployments will increase. At the very least, shoring up cloud-facing network infrastructure is probably the most direct way to make sure you are getting your money’s worth from your provider.

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