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To Achieve Cloud Success, You Need to Prioritize Your Network

Tackling the connectivity issues between data centers, and data centers to the cloud

Enterprise IT organizations are under increasing pressure to do more with less. As such, they are highly motivated to leverage existing investments for maximum efficiencies rather than spend time and resources on acquiring, integrating and managing pricey new equipment. Enterprises are already deriving efficiencies through data center consolidation and virtualization initiatives. However, we know the cloud promises to offer further potency in the form of infrastructure savings on IT services and hardware expenses. In fact, according to Rackspace, 60 percent of IT professionals said the cloud has reduced the need for their IT team to maintain infrastructure, giving them more time to focus on strategy and innovation, while 88 percent point to cost savings.

To make good on the cloud's promise, it is important that enterprise IT also focus its attention on the network that connects its data centers to each other, and to the cloud-particularly how these inter-data-center networks need to change to support new cloud use cases and associated network requirements for bandwidth scalability, low latency, security, virtualization and automation. In fact, here are five important reasons why you need to re-think and transform your network between data centers, and from data centers to the cloud, in order to fully reap the cloud's benefits today and for years to come.

Lay off the network packets
You need a flatter Layer 0/1/2 network architecture between data centers that delivers better scalability, latency and deterministic performance. With this architecture, the network won't be a bottleneck when you need it the most, and it will deliver the lowest cost per bit throughput. A flat architecture and lean packet means reducing how many ports need to touch the packet, eliminating unnecessarily costly packet processing and associated operations costs.

The growth of demand for more data over the network means networks need to be constructed with efficiency by requiring fewer and cheaper bits to switch and transport. This is achieved by routing where you must, and using Layer 0/1/2 whenever possible.

The cloud is still evolving
It is important to acknowledge the use of the cloud services is still in its infancy at many enterprises. Cloud software- and infrastructure-as-a-service applications today live in the service provider cloud, often locked behind semi-proprietary architectures. As cloud deployments become more complex, IT will need to deploy a more open architecture with standards in place for APIs and management tools. By doing this, they will be able to unlock the potential to federate private data centers with multiple provider cloud data centers, enabling greater workload mobility and the ability to deploy entirely new applications - this will require a better network to run effectively.

Growing infrastructure workloads will be commonplace
Now, the enterprise typically uses cloud infrastructure for simple storage backup to cloud data centers over low speed IP networks, trickling the data asynchronously as the network permits. Typically this use case fits small businesses with relatively low amounts of storage. Soon enough, the enterprise will want to take advantage of lower cost cloud storage for large amounts of storage. It will want a network that can dynamically respond to moving terabytes when the data needs to move - without bottlenecks, security holes or dropped packets.

Interoperability between the network and cloud ecosystem is needed
As enterprise use of the cloud becomes more prominent, IT will look for ways to automate cloud use cases using an intelligent network. Software defined networking (SDN) is the key to achieving greater flexibility and lower costs. Workload orchestration between cloud data centers, and between enterprise and cloud data centers, will be driven by policy-based software automation tools. On-demand change in performance parameters such as bandwidth scalability will be accomplished through high-level software interfaces into the network control planes, not by an operator using a command line interface to the equipment. This performance-on-demand will be triggered at the application level, ensuring that the adjustments to the network and to the cloud meet the business requirements and service level agreements. However, the cloud must be interoperable with the entire cloud network to succeed - it is the key ingredient that ties everything together, serving as a backplane across the data centers for flexible delivery of applications and services.

New applications are driving East-West traffic flows
A north-south traffic flow is user-to-machine (or user to content) through a tiered IP network architecture. This reflects a client/server model and is exercised in the cloud for SaaS-type applications where the application is simply moved from the in-house data center to the cloud provider data center server. Data centers specifically and machine-to-machine (or content to content) communication necessitate east-west traffic flows - such traffic has much more stringent quality-of-service requirements. Shortly, we'll see at least an order of magnitude with more east-west data workloads driven by applications like storage synchronization, inter-data center storage virtualization, big data analysis and virtual machine migrations. This means the cloud network needs to be designed for performance to meet the traffic flow change and intensity challenges of the future.

Many enterprises have spent sufficient time and resources on improving cost and resource efficiencies inside the data center to enable cloud computing, but don't always build for the peak workload. Now, it's time to address the network that connects the data centers enabling dynamic adjustment to variable workloads and assignment to the most efficient processing location. Hopefully, these five reasons, and others, will provide the initiative for the industry to begin to properly tackle the connectivity issues between data centers, and data centers to the cloud, to ensure enterprises get the most from their cloud initiatives.

More Stories By Jim Morin

Jim Morin is a Product Line Director working in Ciena’s Industry Marketing segment. He is responsible for developing and communicating solutions and the business value for Ciena’s enterprise data center networking and cloud networking opportunities. Prior to joining Ciena in 2008 he held roles in business development and product management for several high technology storage and networking companies in Minneapolis.

Jim holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and a BA from the University of Notre Dame. He recently served on the Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in US Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD2).

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