At times businesses focus so much on one specific topic and its nitty-gritty details that they miss the big picture: this is what people mean when someone can’t see the woods for the trees.
Today the IT world is impacted by the ongoing debate around cloud. People tend to visualise the cloud as a location on some sort of geographical map. The cloud can be within your data centre or outside of it, at times in some not better specified location.
In reality the cloud is not a place, it’s a paradigm: it is a consumption model and an expectation of instant delivery. It opened up everyone’s eyes about the possibilities for greater agility, automation, efficiency, and simplicity. And those attributes can be found in all flavours of clouds.
So should enterprises embrace private, public or hybrid cloud? The question is so strongly connected to data centre technologies that one aspect is often forgotten: how will users reach their cloud services?
The answer is easy: through the wide area network (WAN). This is why the debate around the alternative cloud deployment models should get a start from the wide area network options. And this is also the reason the IT crew should be talking to the network team as a first step when approaching the cloud.
Nobody would have even considered building skyscrapers if Otis had not invented the elevator a couple of centuries ago. That was a key enabling technology and also a differentiator among builders.
When you look at cloud IT in a broader sense, it is apparent that users can access the required services in the cloud only by connecting via the WAN. You can have a fantastic application running in whatever form of cloud, but it will look pretty nasty if you have poor connectivity. Bandwidth and latency are clearly very important, but packet drops and security will also play a key role to make users happy.
In the past the most adopted solution for enterprise connectivity was to deploy a virtual private network on top of MPLS technology from a service provider. More recently, with the increasing adoption of internet as a viable enterprise WAN transport solution and the move of applications to either the public cloud (typically for SaaS) or hybrid cloud (typically for PaaS and IaaS), customers find themselves at the cusp of a WAN evolution.
A top priority now becomes un-compromised application performance and availability regardless of the application type and how it is consumed. Customers are expecting that the evolving landscape of WAN solutions will incorporate more and more of the WAN optimisation capabilities available on the market, even better if they are designed specifically for application and cloud-access optimisation.
Bandwidth reduction, handling of packet drops and high jitter, high throughput even on long distance links, encryption and application specific quality of service are just a few features that come to mind.
The focus should be on user experience, application performance, visibility, control and security. The success of a cloud service will strongly depend on how well and easily users will be able to connect to it through the WAN.
Software-defined WAN solutions are becoming a hot topic these days and they have to thank the wide adoption of IT services from the cloud as a major driver behind this momentum.
Moreover, SD-WAN connectivity can be controlled with software living in the cloud space, making the marriage even better. SD-WAN is a flavour of software-defined networking as applied to long distance connections, outside the data centre. Using SD-WAN technology, enterprises connect their branch offices to their data centre networks and to the cloud, crossing geographical distances.
Branch routers are incorporating WAN optimisation and SD-WAN capabilities, alleviating the need for dedicated hardware appliances. Products in the network function virtualisation infrastructure category are also emerging as an appealing new approach for enterprises to combine multiple services (like security, load-balancing, WAN optimisation) on a single x86 server engine.
WAN optimisation is also being included within data replication software tools, facilitating backup toward a cloud environment.
Hybrid cloud is definitely under the spotlight as the ideal candidate for an affordable, secure and flexible delivery of IT services. When combined with the ongoing trends of virtualisation, mobility, desktop virtualisation and analytics, this leads to an increase in bandwidth and management complexity.
SD-WAN solutions seem to be the answer, determining a swift shift in enterprise WAN architectures, where there is a need to unify management of WAN application performance across Internet, MPLS and cellular links.
Integrated platform offerings are top of mind within large enterprises with complex networks and requirements. Virtualised solutions, as part of the broader NFVI approach, are considered best for simpler branch and data centre environments.
For organisations that are considering adopting some form of private, public or hybrid cloud, it would be a savvy move if they would start from the WAN. Just like elevators enabled skyscrapers, SD-WAN technology enables cloud IT. A famous song in the 70s suggested a lady was buying a “stairway to heaven”. Now it could be the time for IT managers to buy an “elevator to the cloud IT”.
Sourced by Fausto Vaninetti, SNIA Europe