Check Your Bandwidth on the Cloud

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Seven Signs You've Backed Your Cloud into a Corner

There are many opportunities to make strategic errors that wind up doing more harm than good.

The cloud is a godsend for enterprises struggling to keep up with burgeoning data loads. In the blink of an eye, you gain access to all the resources you desire, and at a fraction of the cost of building out additional physical infrastructure.

The problem is, your data is in the data center, while the new cloud resources are, well, out on the cloud. Connectivity is provided through wide area networks, which typically involve carrier infrastructure and other links shared by the general public.

Naturally, this brings up a wide range of security issues, although most cloud platforms provide the same level of security that large enterprises employ. An even bigger problem, however, is maintaining adequate bandwidth, particularly as the volume of cloud-related traffic grows.

Lately, though, it seems enterprises are turning a blind eye to network needs in the rush to get onto the cloud. According to Enterprise Management Associates, only 54 percent of organizations involve network engineering or operations personnel in their cloud strategies, down from 62 percent just two years ago. This is likely to have a detrimental impact in maintaining best practices on the network side, according to EMA's Jim Frey.

Oddly, this comes at a time when enterprises are increasing their demand for more sophisticated cloud applications but are unwilling to use it to bolster infrastructure capabilities. As Information Week found out in its latest Cloud Computing Survey, only 26 percent of respondents expressed interest in cloud-based infrastructure as a service, down from 38 percent last year, while platform and software service solutions showed continual gains.

For many organizations, the lack of adequate network support will begin to show itself once applications have to start hunting for data across multiple sites, says Voke Inc. analyst Theresa Lanowitz. As she explained to Computerworld recently, data infrastructure in the cloud needs to take on a much more expansive view, since it now needs to support disparate resources spread out over large geographic areas rather than a few silos in the data center.

Unfortunately, the cloud is not the only development putting pressure on public bandwidth. Mobile traffic is expected to grow 15-fold or more by 2016 - most of it in the form of video files. Large carriers still package many of their service tiers under the old voice paradigm in which rates were assessed by time rather than data volume. They are keenly aware of this, however, so it probably won't be long before the cost of moving Big Data across the cloud increases.

To be sure, a range of WAN optimization and other tools are readily available for the cloud, and these will come under increasing pressure to maintain service levels in the face of increasingly crowded networks.

The task for CIOs today, however, is to ensure that adequate network support exists for current applications, and to identify any and all upgrades necessary to accommodate future cloud services.