While most businesses understand the importance of cloud computing to digital transformation and having an agile business, the cloud can only perform as well as the business’s network infrastructure. For businesses preparing to embark on a cloud strategy, aligning the network to the needs of the cloud is the first step to ensuring that the strategy is optimally realized.
Increasingly, businesses understand this need for alignment and are making plans to optimize their networks. According to the TechTarget IT Priorities 2018 survey, 31 percent of the 971 IT professionals polled said that network modernization was a priority. However, that number is still far too small when you consider the centrality of the network to cloud computing and digital transformation.
Closing the legacy network gap for cloud computing is essential because a poorly optimized network can lead to data bottlenecks and lost business opportunities. Everything, from slow applications and inefficient app development to security and compliance, is dependent on the network.
Network Optimization for Cloud Alignment
Organizations' future growth depends on them no longer underestimating their need for totally redesigned networks to accommodate data in the cloud. Many see the move to a public cloud (part of the hybrid cloud approach) as a shift from what they may be accustomed to. The reality is that proper planning, monitoring, and management tools can provide the oversight that ensures agility, flexibility, and security of data and applications. Some of the important planning details for aligning the network with cloud computing include:
- Ensuring efficient and adequate bandwidth fulfillment, especially when it comes to backhaul issues
- Developing a security strategy that includes network protections and high visibility
- Providing the ability to efficiently control traffic in the network, which is more difficult because of mobile devices and remote desktops
Networks have moved from being tactical to highly strategic, so they are foundational to any cloud strategy whether it be public, private, or hybrid. Based on that understanding, here are some important approaches that are key to aligning your network infrastructure with cloud computing.
Network Management and Pre-Deployment Assessments
Cloud computing’s Opex, Capex, and agility advantages come from the shifting of applications and data storage to the cloud. That means shifting from completely internal management concerns to external ones. The internal network will still require the ability to facilitate migration processes, workload balancing, and a host of issues that will ensure application and workload optimization.
The first step is performing a network assessment that includes mapping application traffic, connections, and devices. A thorough assessment must also include penetration testing and patch-level determinations to identify potential problems before they develop. This will reveal any potential bottlenecks that can be dealt with proactively before the cloud migration process.
The goal of the network assessment in the case of cloud strategy preparation is to start with a detailed picture of the end state for mission needs and future evolution. Consequently, a network assessment will:
- Thoroughly identify flaws in network design to determine best approaches for a design that yields maximum network efficiency, agility, flexibility, and resiliency
- Precisely identify present and potential future areas of bandwidth congestion, bottlenecks, and latency
- Identify areas that increase security and compliance vulnerabilities
- Establish infrastructure benchmarks for problem notifications or potential breaches
The results of the assessment provide an accurate understanding of network strengths and weaknesses. This becomes the foundation for making sound network design changes. Moreover, the assessment and the resulting plan will inform Capex and Opex savings that ripple through the cloud strategy.
Network Capacity and SDN Considerations
Because cloud computing can provide the business with growth and efficiency options, network traffic will grow over time due to the digital transformations that the cloud will foster. Everything—from workforce mobility and application access to communications, BCDR, and forward-thinking needs like IoT, BYOD, and DaaS—is dependent on network bandwidth.
Along with the network assessment, organizations will need to determine existing bandwidth demands per user, per department, and for the organization as a whole. The cloud strategy will inform future needs, which will guide network infrastructure changes to accommodate that growth. Businesses with spiking bandwidth needs due to e-commerce and DevOps will require potential bursting options that can affect network throughput.
Keeping the network running smoothly becomes more challenging with a hybrid and multi-cloud distribution strategy, which spurs the adoption of SDN. As part of the virtualization approach through cloud VMS, containers, and microservices, SDN makes it easier to dynamically allot network resources, including bandwidth, in a virtualized cloud computing environment.
As your organization grows, so does your network, expanding and developing across your infrastructure. With ever larger networks, performance, processes, and security will require a network infrastructure that can keep up with the changes.
Network infrastructure is the conduit to reliability, security, and compliance in the cloud. Taking the long view is about making changes to the network that are foundational to hybrid and multi-cloud strategies. Achieving these ends often requires support from cloud managed services to ensure the business is competitive both today and tomorrow.