As discussed in Part I of this post, the Cloud 2.0 era, consisting of hybrid cloud/IT environments, dictates the careful consideration of the network that connects the various compute and storage resources to one another, and serves as a critical resource that connects the users who access applications via mobile device or the corporate VPN. As your organization increasingly places sensitive data and critical workloads in the cloud, IT teams need to recognize that network design and the chosen service provider play an essential role delivering a secure and consistent cloud experience.
There are currently several options available for connecting the enterprise to the cloud. Let’s start with the most basic.
Direct connect services establish a direct, one-to-one private link between the enterprise and a specific cloud center, usually via an interconnect center or carrier hotel and the use of a third-party network service provider. AWS DirectConnect is an example of such service. EarthLink offers a similar service frequently used to connect to credit card payment processors with increased speed and security.
The cloud exchange, pioneered by Equinix, is related to the direct connect model. Cloud Exchanges enable direct cross-connects between any network or cloud service provider resident at the exchange center.¹ This includes connecting directly to leading cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft, IBM, etc. Frost & Sullivan’s cloud survey results indicate that on average, enterprises connect to three different cloud service providers. Using a cloud exchange provider can eliminate the need to establish separate contracts and physical connections with multiple cloud vendors, thus reducing the cost, complexity and time required to deploy multi-vendor cloud solutions.
Cloud Interconnect Services
Cloud interconnect services allow enterprises to designate cloud service providers as nodes on the corporate VPN. Typically, network service providers have already established connections to cloud service providers. Unlike the direct connect approach, where the enterprise must provision separate physical network connections to each cloud provider, this model is designed for multi-point connectivity, thus enabling organizations with greater flexibility in connecting to multiple cloud providers from multiple company locations. Most network providers offer some type of cloud interconnect service such as this. Some, like AT&T have built their own infrastructure. Others, including EarthLink, have partnered with exchange providers such as Equinix, enabling customers to create highly-available, private, managed connections to multiple cloud providers via MPLS.
Hybrid Cloud Needs a Hybrid WAN
As mentioned in the prior post, Cloud 2.0 is all about optimizing IT efficiency, with each workload or component deployed in the environment that delivers the best combination of price, performance, and security. In the Frost & Sullivan Cloud survey, we asked users how important various components of the hybrid cloud were to them. Exhibit 1 shows the importance attached to various components in a hybrid cloud.
As shown in Exhibit 1, while 87% of the respondents ranked “hosted public and private cloud services” as the most important combination, 70% of the respondents said “all of the above.” These results further validate the growing trend toward hybrid IT deployments underpinning the need for a hybrid WAN architecture.
A hybrid WAN designed to access and deliver those services, consisting of private networks, Internet-based VPNs, and LTE, could be the right approach to an optimal cloud optimized enterprise WAN. For example, a branch location can connect to a SaaS application using public Internet and use private VPNs for hosted private cloud.
Future role of SD-WAN
Software-defined WAN or SD-WAN (which we’ll discuss extensively in future posts) is the next step in evolution of hybrid or dynamic WAN to separate the control plane from the data plane, and remotely software control the abstracted underlying network infrastructure. SD-WAN solutions use network overlay mechanisms to aggregate several network circuits – MPLS, Ethernet, Internet, LTE – to choose the most desired link for specific applications based on pre-set policies. The software-controlled architecture enables the WAN to be more agile and flexible, which facilitates enterprises to provision bandwidth as demanded by cloud-centric applications.
The takeaway is that a hybrid cloud IT environment will only work if the networks connecting the different pieces are reliable and meet application performance requirements. The WAN is now the critical foundation for smooth and seamless function and delivery of various elements of a hybrid IT environment, something organizations cannot afford to forget in their cloud transformation journey.
Image Credit: eweek.com
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Guest blog post by Roopa Honnachari from Frost & Sullivan, a global consulting firm and a strategic partner to EarthLink. They work with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today’s market participants. This is the second in two-part series on cloud connectivity.