Cloud computing has revolutionised the IT space, offering companies of all sizes easy access to technology over their existing network and allowing many services to be offered on a ‘pay per use’ basis instead of requiring large capital investment. However, moving into the cloud is often not as simple as it seems, and if this move is not done correctly and with the right approach, cloud solution could fail to deliver and negatively impact an organisation. For cloud services to be effective, the network needs to support multiple services and deliver maximum value, offer faster time to service and deliver a better experience for the end user. Before moving into the cloud, there are several technical considerations that need to be resolved, specifically around the network design itself.
“The cloud offers many business advantages, including scalability, rapid deployment of new services, improved efficiency and lower total cost of ownership. Business agility can also be achieved once the cloud is implemented correctly; it acts as an enabler for a multitude of services and applications. Users can simply attach to the cloud to access the services they need, which allows them to access these services on any device of their choosing. Without the cloud, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), mobility and remote working cannot be delivered in a strategic manner while protecting the security of the company. The cloud is therefore intrinsically tied to business agility, and an organisation’s cloud strategy should support this,” says Paul Fick, Chief Technology Officer at Jasco.
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to implementing cloud solutions is the traditional design of networks, which are simply not compatible with the concept of cloud. Traditional networks are too complex and static, consisting of multiple layers and different technologies, which makes virtualising solutions nearly impossible. The design based on core, distribution and access is not flexible enough for cloud provisioning, and to introduce the agility required on such a network requires significant work and massive increases in the complexity of the design, which is counter-intuitive since the cloud is all about simplification. Automatic provisioning is all but impossible, and services require many man-hours to be delivered. To successfully implement cloud solutions, a fundamental redesign of network architecture is necessary, removing layers, adding flexibility, and enabling users to attach wherever they need to rather than specifying tunnels and access points,” adds Andrew Larkins, Systems Engineer at Avaya Networking.
When it comes to network design in support of cloud solutions, there are five key technical considerations that should be resolved. These considerations are not linear, but all work in harmony to deliver the correct network architecture to deliver efficient, effective and usable cloud services.
1. Simplify the network
For cloud services, a simplified network is critical to providing the flexibility needed. Redundant architecture and unnecessary layers should be removed, reducing the complexity of the various protocols and leveraging shortest path bridging. The network architecture should be flattened to drive simplification through Layer 2, enabling rapid, automatic provisioning of services. Through this simplification process, agility can be achieved. Flattening the network architecture also reduces the number of network architects required and assists with achieving the scale required to achieve improved total cost of ownership. Automation of configuration is now also possible, which reduces the time to deliver services.
2. Enable ease of support
“Ease of support ties back into the technical complexity of the network. The simpler the network architecture, the easier it is to support. By simplifying the network and removing the layers which needed their own support, and by removing silos, it is possible to have one person supporting the whole system. This means that services can be deployed much faster, as services are provisioned at the edge of the network. Support and troubleshooting are simplified as the path through the network is clear and easy to understand, and quality of service can be easily enforced as a result,” says Larkins.
3. Ensure a fast, secure, resilient, reliable, scalable and flexible architecture
When creating a cloud and provisioning cloud services, security is critical and it is vital to ensure users only have access to the services they need. In terms of resiliency, the cloud must be always-on, so multiple forwarding paths and an active-active pat design are needed. When a connection failure occurs, it must reconverge automatically in the fastest time possible, and with multiple active links it is possible to achieve reliability and flexibility. Scalability ensures that if new services or more users need to be added, the network can accommodate this with automatic provisioning. A simplified, agile network ensures that more services can be loaded quickly and easily, and the network is able to manage itself automatically.
“The cloud should follow a ‘build once, deploy many’ architecture, which requires a consistent fabric and the ability to deploy services end-to-end, extending the cloud to the edge of the network, through the user and out to remote sites. The further toward the edge this is extended, the more automated the network can become, and therefore the higher the resiliency. This is all about intelligent, innovative network design,” adds Larkins.
4. Incorporate open standards for interoperability
“Vendor lock in will limit the ability to design a best-of-breed network to deliver the required services and applications. Organisations should be able to select from a basket of services to make sure solutions meet the needs for their network and business requirements. If this is not possible, then scalability is limited, and the network may meet immediate requirements but fail to deliver in the future. Adherence to open standards should be high on the list to ensure that business value can be derived from the network,” says Fick.
5. Build the network to deliver the service that the application needs
The network needs to be fit for purpose, delivering the service the application needs rather than trying to retrofit services onto an unsuitable architecture. Trying to crowbar agile cloud services onto legacy architecture seriously limits the ability to create the necessary real-time collaborative network that cloud thrives on.
“Networking has changed. We are no longer in a static environment where IT builds the network and then tells business what services they can have. With cloud business tells IT which applications they want to deploy, and expects that the network will be able to support this. A fast, flexible, secure, resilient and scalable network is critical for a cloud-based architecture that delivers on business requirements. Each of these five aspects works hand in hand to deliver just that,” says Larkins.
6. Selecting the right partner
Network design is critical in cloud architecture, however this is not a core skill of the majority of organisations. Partnering with the right service provider, with the specialist skills required, will ensure that all of these technical considerations are resolved in the network design. A service provider should offer vendor-agnostic, best-of-breed solutions that deliver a complete, valuable solution to customers. Solutions should be made up of the best offerings across the board, which may not be offered by any single vendor. The right partner will ensure an industry-wide view, mapped to customer-specific business requirements, to put together the best solution – an economically viable network that meets business requirements now and into the future.