The Hybrid Cloud Depends on Solid Networking

The hybrid cloud may be the preferred data architecture at most enterprises these days, but it is still very much a work in progress. And as development continues, it is becoming clear that its success or failure will depend very much on the network.

To support dreams of seamless application migration and workload balancing across local and distributed infrastructure, the network will not only have to be in tip-top shape but will require a level of functionality that is only just starting to emerge in software-defined environments.

Development continues because, frankly, we won’t have an effective hybrid cloud without it.

Aviatrix and Nutanix recently teamed up on a new hybrid architecture that strives to automate fully the flow of data from on-premises and multi-cloud data centers. By integrating the Aviatrix Cloud Interconnect (ACX) software into the Nutanix Calm orchestration stack, the system provides a means to seamlessly extend secure network connectivity to AWS, Azure and other public resources. As well, the package provides single-click access to Nutanix’ data centers for rapid hybrid cloud deployment, removing the need for specialized networking expertise or knowledge of command-line interfaces.

Meanwhile, IBM just released the new Agile Service Manager module for its Netcool Operations Insight system to give enterprises additional leverage over their hybrid deployments. Netcool provides a visual map of the infrastructure that supports distributed data environments, which ASM uses to track the rapid movement of applications and provide deep system monitoring to prevent service disruptionIn addition, it provides detailed topology views of multi-domain cloud architectures with both real-time updates and historical views. (Disclosure: I provide content services to IBM.)

Most enterprises take the unfortunate step of building a hybrid cloud first and then worrying about networking later. But as Ranga Rajagopalan, CTO and co-founder of AVI Networks notes, this is not necessarily a fatal step, although it will take some work to retrofit networks around hybrid architectures without diminishing resource efficiency or creating bandwidth constraints. For one thing, it helps to determine ahead of time what applications can be migrated to certain resources and where key data sets are to be housed. Also, it helps to employ the latest encryption tools, such as elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), to ease bottlenecks at the load balancer.

Hybrid networking also suffers from the dreaded last mile problem, says TECA President Michael Otey. In any given data center, all traffic is funneled through the link to the Internet, so if the bandwidth is lacking here, it affects performance across the entire cloud infrastructure. Many enterprises address this through multiple ISPs, which not only increases throughput but provides protection against outages — at least when disruptions are not occurring on a regional basis. Meanwhile, some cloud providers are offering direct connectivity to key customers through providers like Comcast and Level 3. Not only do these services offer upwards of 10 Gbps of Layer 3 networking, but they have built-in redundancy for high availability.

Network connectivity is the lynchpin for all data operations, but in the hybrid cloud it takes on new meaning because it must be both fast and flexible. That means the enterprise will have to address it on the physical layer with wider pipes and bigger switches, and on the management side with increased programmability and dynamic services deployment.

Hybrid clouds, after all, do not build their own abstract networks.

Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.

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