What does cloud computing mean for your WAN?
“cloud computing also has serious implications on the performance of business-critical applications on the wide area network (WAN).”
Enterprises today are faced with the paradox of increasing productivity while at the same time "doing more with less," leading many to centralize and converge their IT and communications infrastructures and embrace cloud computing. However, warns Thierry Grenot, cloud computing also has serious implications on the performance of business-critical applications on the wide area network (WAN).
The increasing use of networked applications is already putting the WAN under pressure. Enterprises need to understand what applications are running on their WAN and treat them appropriately. Applications, such as SAP, Oracle, unified communications, VoIP and telepresence, all have varying priorities and performance requirements. Cloud computing adds to this volatile mix: when software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are rolled out, the infrastructure director must be able to ensure an excellent user experience, not only for SaaS, but all applications.
However, classical networking approaches are not compatible with cloud computing. The lack of innovation over the last 10 years has hindered the network: static, blind, unable to control application flows and to guarantee the availability of good application performance for end users. Designed with other purposes in mind nearly 20 years ago, it's no wonder old-fashioned MPLS cannot match the situation today.
Cloud computing network situations are complex and change too fast for legacy and static policy-based management. If a user can set up servers in an unknown data center from a Web interface in a few minutes, why should he wait weeks and months for the network to adapt to the new situation? A cloud-ready network must couple the cloud data center with network behavior in a flexible, orchestrated manner.
A cloud-ready network must learn, decide and dynamically adapt to match the increasing users' traffic patterns. Intelligent and fast, it should learn and adapt by itself in real-time, serving high-level enterprise goals. Autonomic networking has already proved its ability to solve this tricky problem in many situations.
WAN governance holds key
Enterprise silos are vanishing. Cloud computing business units are bypassing the corporate IT organization, yet IT managers need to keep reasonable control of the situation. They need to know what's happening, make decisions on strategic topics, apply their decisions, check results and manage costs. A cloud-ready network must provide CIOs with global control in a simple manner.
A WAN governance model, allowing CIOs to make the right decisions at the corporate level rather than react under the pressure of daily events, is a key characteristic of cloud-ready networks. WAN governance also allows them to discover the applications on the network and measure their performance, provision network access according to business-critical application requirements, guarantee "application-centric" service level agreements (SLAs), and automatically provision new applications, network sites and additional end users.
Effective WAN governance enables organizations to overcome challenges and achieve business goals. Using it, organizations have proven to be able to manage their networks at much higher levels of performance with lower costs and to dynamically align their IT performance with ever-changing needs.
Thierry Grenot is CTO of Ipanema Technologies (www.ipanematech.com), a strategic partner of Orange Business Services that provides the technology foundation for Network Boost.