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Organisations are increasingly using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) for its ability to offer fast, agile and elastic computing with minimal operational overhead. For larger enterprises, IaaS is no longer limited to proof-of-concept (POC) with no project end in sight; instead it involves hard contractual obligations, balance sheet objectives and increased complexity in hosting critical applications. This is driving IT to scale processes off corporate premises towards a hybrid cloud model where companies can provide and manage some resources in-house and others externally. As such, traffic growth within the hybrid cloud model is scaling at a rate that is forcing a new look at legacy wide area network (WAN) connectivity, including visibility, control and performance.
There are multiple factors driving increased workload migration into the cloud, including expanded presence throughout the world via IaaS ‘regions’ and availability zones, maturity of networking, improved cloud security and automation features. For CIOs, moving to the cloud means turning capital equipment expenditure into operational expenditure, utility spending, faster time to value and building a leaner infrastructure – an ideal position for any company to be in. However, while IaaS deployments offer numerous benefits, connecting the enterprise data centre to the cloud within a hybrid data centre model can also present hidden challenges and costs.
How IaaS impacts the WAN
The hybrid delivery model directly impacts the existing enterprise WAN by increasing the complexity of network topology between IaaS sites and customer-owned data centres – the use of internet connectivity and site-to-site VPN tunnels adds further complexity. As hybrid cloud models begin to take hold, WAN performance becomes critical for latency-sensitive workloads and business continuity.
As IaaS typically involves moving large amounts of data across the WAN, its success is gated by the available bandwidth. When data movement needs to be performed in real-time, geographic distance and WAN quality can play a major role in whether this is done successfully. Large volumes of data, available bandwidth and the data centre’s proximity to the cloud host can all affect the time required for data migration. Therefore, enterprises must consider strategies for migrating data both into and out of the cloud, or deploying across multiple cloud vendors for data protection.
Addressing IaaS limitations simply, securely and efficiently
In light of the continued growth of hybrid cloud computing, organisations must re-imagine and build the WAN now to support an entirely new set of application delivery requirements. They must consider unifying the hybrid cloud with an intelligent WAN fabric; a network overlay that controls and accelerates connectivity to any combination of enterprise services, IaaS resources and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. Not only does this approach bring better performance into the cloud, it offers secure and simplified connectivity between the enterprise and multiple IaaS providers, bypassing many of the limitations inherent in IaaS deployments and making it possible to implement consistency into the hybrid infrastructure.
Various techniques are used to do this, the first of which is building cloud intelligence to aggregate the constantly changing information about cloud providers and internet weather. This information creates an internet weather map, which is used to dynamically route traffic to the cloud over the optimal path. Optimising the WAN is also critical. Techniques such as deduplication and compression technology to eliminate redundant data, packet-order-correction to improve network quality, and accelerated IPsec encryption, can mean organisations improve cloud performance exponentially.
With regards to SaaS, ensuring performance over the internet is far more complicated than conventional applications that run over MPLS or private networks. SaaS has different network dependencies based on the type of application. For example, cloud based storage may not be very latency sensitive but may be bandwidth intensive, while the opposite may be true for real-time database enquiries. Also, across relatively short connections with small amounts of delay, SaaS performance issues are not always noticeable. By building an intelligent WAN fabric, enterprise IT can see, control, and optimise every SaaS application.
Ultimately, enterprises can gain efficient, scalable and cost effective computing by migrating some of their core services into hybrid clouds using IaaS. However, only by addressing the limitations inherent in IaaS deployments will organisations be able to implement consistency into their hybrid infrastructure – the key component to staying one step ahead of their competitors.
By Everett Dolgner, director of replication product management at Silver Peak