Improve the WAN, Improve the Cloud

Arthur Cole
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Deploying Applications in the Cloud

While there's more talk than actual use of cloud computing in the enterprise, a Zeus Technology survey looks at the beginnings of a major shift under way. Clear expectations and planning can improve your experience and near-term success.

It's almost inevitable at this point that the enterprise industry will be wholly dependent upon cloud services in a few short years. If 2010 was the proof-of-concept phase, then 2011 will see the kind of broad rollout that will make the cloud a standard enterprise component by mid-decade.

But while most of the attention is going toward the increased scalability and flexibility that the cloud provides, there is one aspect of this evolving paradigm that has gone largely unnoticed: the increasing dependence on Wide Area Networking (WAN) to support general data center functions.

Essentially what is happening is that the WAN is becoming the new backplane for the cloud, according to TMCnet's Susan J. Campbell. That means it is crucial for enterprises to institute new levels of WAN governance to ensure the wide area infrastructure can support required service levels. Ideally, you should aim for an environment that can handle existing traffic between data centers, plus the ability to dynamically adapt to new patterns as they arise.

Part of the problem, though, is that WAN technology development has been largely stagnant for years, said Steve Taylor of Distributed Networking Associates and Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler and Associates. In the 1980s and '90s, we saw a steady stream of technologies like TDM, ATM and frame-relay technologies. But since the conversion to MPLS in the early 2000s, there have been no new developments to accommodate cloud computing. At best, we've seen tweaks to MPLS technology like the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

With cloud computing growing at an 80 percent clip, pressure on public broadband networks will only increase, which will make WAN optimization technologies vital for both the enterprise and the public at large, said's Philip Hunter. The more cloud services replace local connections with long-distance links, the more service will suffer at the hands of overworked network connections. That could effectively curtail the very performance advantages the cloud is supposed to provide.

WAN optimization already had a strong value proposition before the cloud, which means it will probably emerge in one of the more crucial components of the modern enterprise relatively quickly. If you're planning to join the cloud and you haven't looked into optimization yet, now would be a good time to start.

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