Upgrading Networks for the Cloud

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Choosing Your First Cloud Application Initiative

Questions you should ask to help determine which cloud application path you should pursue.

The best thing about the cloud is that it provides instant access to compute and storage resources, providing a dynamic infrastructure to suit rising and falling data loads.

For many organizations, this will alleviate the need to over-provision physical and/or virtual servers and storage arrays to accommodate the peak. However, it also places greater stress on in-house network infrastructure.

For most CIOs, then, particularly in these early transitional days, the question becomes how to optimize legacy networking systems to enable the smooth transfer of data to and from the cloud. From the looks of things so far, this won't be an easy task.

Part of the problem is that network requirements for the cloud will vary depending on your point of view, according to The Register's Chris Mellor. If you see the network as a service-delivery platform, for example, a top goal is prioritizing applications to ensure adequate service levels. If you view it as a collection of fabrics, then the Application Delivery Controller is paramount, primarily as a means to pool client connections and enable rapid and efficient scalability. And from a purely operational perspective, you'll see a wide range of requirements across public and private architectures. There's nothing to say these views are incompatible, but it does help to understand how many different forces have skin in your network decisions.

As with any complex architectural upgrade, success depends largely on the foundation your create, according to CTO Edge's Mike Vizard. Companies like DynTek specialize in solving bottlenecks that arise in storage networking, usually beginning with a small, appliance-based private cloud or a scale-out NAS approach. Once the proper balance is struck between server, storage and networking, all three aspects can be expanded in tandem to ensure infrastructure integrity is maintained.

One of the more ironic twists in cloud development is that the cloud itself can be employed to overcome many of the network issues that it causes. IT consultant Jim Metzler notes that a range of new Cloud Networking Services (CNS's) provide many of the network and application optimization, security and management functions currently enabled by in-house solutions. The trick will be to determine which services are most suitable to the cloud and which ones are best left to internal or hybrid environments - something that will vary according to user needs, legacy architectures and other factors.

Some of the leading virtual/cloud platforms are starting to address the needs of internal network infrastructure. For example, Citrix recently released the CloudConnector for hybrid cloud environments aimed at forging closer ties between on- and off-premises infrastructure. The system places a range of TCP optimization, compression and deduplication tools at the network edge, adding NetScale appliances and services from acceleration firm Cotendo to ensure a smooth hand-off between private, hybrid and public clouds.

This increased focus on networking points up both the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing. On the one hand, you never have to worry about not having enough resources to handle the job, but will you be able to provide access to that data for all who need it? In the future, in other words, IT will be judged not by how much data it can handle, but by how quickly it can move that data from place to place.

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