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Building WAN Infrastructure For The Cloud

With the move to cloud computing, enterprises need to ensure their networks are up for the change. A deeper integration is required between the network and the cloud, along with a fundamental shift in how the network is constructed in order to leverage the advantages of cloud computing.

Many enterprises have created private wide area networks (WANs) to connect their primary sites, data centers, branch offices, and remote sites using private IP/optical networks or managed network services. However, with cloud-based IT models and the availability of more flexible approaches to WAN networking, enterprises need to re-evaluate and determine the best approach for their WAN needs. Let’s look at some of the key considerations.

Many companies that implemented private clouds using their current enterprise WAN underestimated the impact of private cloud on their network. Enterprises need to re-architect and upgrade their WAN infrastructure to match the scalability, flexibility, and agility of cloud, and to implement the necessary management and orchestration layers to achieve the full benefits of the cloud. A much deeper integration is needed to support more layers of abstraction and harness logical groupings of resources.

Cloud network architectures need to be more flexible and dynamic, as static networks drastically limit the usability and attractiveness of the cloud. Network services increasingly will need to be decoupled from a single physical location, since the delivery of data, applications, and compute are ubiquitous in the cloud. Also, network resources will need to be abstracted so that provisioning can be automated and orchestrated.

A successful cloud strategy that embraces private, virtual private, and hybrid clouds must support orchestration of network resources across cloud boundaries to ramp resources up or down when and where required. Network resources must be orchestrated dynamically, quickly and efficiently across multiple locations and different types of cloud and cloud providers.

Also, a private cloud demands high-performance bandwidth that scales easily across optical wavelength, Ethernet and IP domains, depending on application requirements. Bandwidth must be able to be flexibly increased and decreased as needed, and the network must be resilient and reliable with automatic failover mechanisms to provide backup and recovery.

Another key consideration when building a WAN for the cloud is security. Sensitive and business-critical data flowing across the network and between different cloud types must be protected and secure. Enterprises should adopt a complete security solution that ensures data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. In many instances, this requires network-based encryption and in some cases encryption at multiple layers. Encryption should be controlled through secure user authentication.

Next, the network must be application aware. Cloud-based applications use the network in different ways, depending on the type of service, data, and user interface, and based on how the various clouds connect with each other. The enterprise WAN needs to be able to adjust automatically to new cloud usage patterns, and it must do this without compromising application scale or performance across different types of clouds. The WAN must also support a comprehensive range of IP-based services to enable the convergence of new and legacy services on a common IP infrastructure, as well as network management to monitor, report and troubleshoot at the service and application levels.

But there’s even more to consider:  Traffic engineering and QoS are necessary so that specific applications, services and data flow across the network are prioritized. Cloud applications and services using business-critical data need priority access to network resources, including resiliency and failover mechanisms in case of link or network failure. It is also essential to understand and analyze network, service, and application performance quickly and in real-time. Having a high level of visibility enables enterprises to adjust their resources to meet demand peaks and troughs, maintain and optimize user experience, and ensure operational efficiency.

Finally, enterprises need to consider the impact of the cloud on network operations and support. They must have access to personnel with both IT and network expertise, whether they are enterprise personnel or third-party support personnel from a service provider or other specialist.  Proactive monitoring tools can also help to identify and remedy network and IT issues before they become critical and impact business activity.

With the move to cloud-based IT models, enterprises must determine the best approach to their WAN. They should build or upgrade a private WAN backbone to connect their main sites and consolidate data centers, offsetting the cost with more flexible, efficient and lower cost WAN access solutions for multiple remote branch sites. This approach provides scalability, security and control for the private cloud while reducing costs, providing flexibility, and increasing agility to support virtual private and hybrid cloud models in the future.