Cloud computing has grown rapidly in recent years, and although some of its promised benefits, particularly cost-effectiveness, have not yet been fully realized in all cases, it is clear that the cloud is here to stay. There is no denying the convenience of the cloud and its ability to make resources accessible to users worldwide, while also allowing organizations to quickly scale their operations up or down as needed. In fact, the global public cloud services market is expected to reach $591.8 billion by the end of 2023, according to Gartner.
As companies continue to move to the cloud, networking teams are facing a number of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the need to maintain network visibility and control. In a hybrid cloud environment, resources are often distributed across multiple data centers and cloud providers. This can make it difficult to track network traffic and troubleshoot problems.
Another challenge for networking teams is ensuring network performance. Cloud applications and services are often latency-sensitive, meaning that even a small amount of latency can impact performance. Networking teams need to carefully design and implement their cloud networks to ensure that applications and services are meeting their performance requirements.
Additionally, it is essential for networking teams to prioritize security, given that cloud environments are highly susceptible to cyberattacks. Implementing robust security controls and procedures is crucial to safeguard cloud networks from these threats.
Collaboration Between Networking, Security, and Cloud Teams
Networking, cloud, and security teams should work together to implement a secure cloud strategy that takes into account network segmentation, data encryption, IAM for access controls, and endpoint protection. Collaboration between these teams is crucial for a successful and secure implementation.
To begin with, network segmentation is essential, as it divides the cloud network into subnets (subnetworks), each fortified with specific security controls to mitigate the extent of potential breaches and prevent unauthorized lateral movement.
Also, implementing data encryption is crucial for protecting data against unauthorized access, securing it both when it is stored in the cloud and as it moves to and from on-premises systems. This means that even if a hacker gets access to your data, they will not be able to read or use it without the decryption key.
For controlling access to cloud resources, identity and access management (IAM) plays a pivotal role by ensuring that individuals have only the necessary permissions to fulfill their job requirements, following the least-privilege principle.
Protection at the device level is also a must, with endpoint protection strategies in place to shield devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets from a range of cybersecurity threats. This multi-layered approach to security, underpinned by interdepartmental collaboration, is key to creating a robust cloud network.
Network Performance and QoS
Quality of service (QoS) is essential for keeping cloud-based apps and services running at their best. It does this by giving priority to important traffic, allocating bandwidth efficiently, and reducing latency and jitter. One of the main things QoS does is identify and prioritize critical traffic types, such as VoIP and video conferencing. This ensures that these services always have the bandwidth and resources they need to run smoothly, even when the network is busy.
QoS is also good at distributing bandwidth in a way that makes the most of it. For example, it can reserve a certain amount of bandwidth for essential services, which can be really helpful when the network is under heavy load. In addition to allocation, QoS is also instrumental in reducing latency and jitter. Reducing these factors is crucial for the smooth performance of sensitive applications, ensuring that communication and video services run without any glitches.
In cloud computing, using QoS can make an especially significant difference in network performance. For instance, if you set up a cloud-based load balancer, it can efficiently manage traffic across multiple servers and prioritize critical services such as VoIP or video calls. Also, implementing a cloud-based firewall can be effective in filtering out unwanted traffic, thus ensuring adequate bandwidth is available for essential services to operate seamlessly.
Additionally, using a content delivery network (CDN), which stores content closer to users, can improve performance by reducing latency and jitter, especially for users who are far away from the source location.
All of these QoS tactics can help make sure your cloud network is up to the task of handling your cloud apps and services, making everything work smoothly for the users.
Designing a Resilient Network Architecture
Designing a resilient network architecture with redundancy mechanisms helps to mitigate the risks of network misconfigurations and faulty network devices. Redundancy mechanisms duplicate critical network components and pathways so that if one component or pathway fails, traffic can be rerouted around it without disrupting service. Additionally, AI is now playing a vital role in making networks more resilient.
Redundancy mechanisms play a pivotal role in enhancing the resilience of network architecture. They ensure that network performance and reliability are maintained, especially for cloud applications and services. Load balancing, for instance, helps distribute traffic evenly across several servers or network devices, which improves overall performance and adds a layer of reliability.
Failover clustering is another technique, where a group of servers or network devices work together to ensure high availability. This setup allows for a seamless workload transition to a backup device if one fails. In terms of connectivity, redundant links provide alternative pathways for network traffic, allowing rerouting if a primary link goes down, thereby maintaining a constant flow of data.
When considering network design, it is important to align the level of redundancy with the criticality of the applications it supports. For mission critical business operations, a robust setup with multiple redundancy mechanisms is essential. Load balancers and failover clusters are essential redundancy mechanisms, and redundant links and power supplies ensure there are no single points of failure in connectivity, power, and availability.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), bolstered by machine learning (ML) and data science, is revolutionizing the way we build and maintain resilient networks. These technologies collectively enhance network security by automating threat detection and response processes. This includes the capability of AI to correlate events across the network, allowing it to quickly identify and respond to emerging threats. AI’s deep analysis of network data helps in pinpointing the root causes of issues, streamlining their resolution and minimizing the chance of recurrence. Moreover, AI plays a crucial role in the development of self-healing networks, which can autonomously detect and fix problems, significantly reducing downtime. Continuous monitoring of network performance by AI ensures early identification of potential issues, preventing them from evolving into serious outages. Additionally, AI’s advanced anomaly detection capabilities are key in identifying and addressing potential threats early on, adding a vital layer of security to network infrastructures.
Building a Cost-Effective Network
There are a variety of measures that can help organizations reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their cloud networks, including network automation, utilizing open-source software, and adopting new approaches like SD-WAN.
Network automation can reduce operational expenses by automating repetitive tasks, such as provisioning and configuring network devices. This can free up IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives. Network automation can also help to optimize resource utilization. For example, network automation can be used to dynamically allocate bandwidth to applications based on their needs. This can help to reduce the need to overprovision resources, which can save money.
Utilizing open-source software like SONiC with white box hardware is another effective strategy. Open-source software, often free or significantly cheaper than its commercial counterparts, provides comparable functionality and reliability. While the old saying “No one gets fired for using vendor x” may still hold, we have found that networking teams are increasingly looking beyond this decades-old mantra and embracing competing innovations.
SD-WAN can significantly reduce cloud networking costs by aggregating multiple lower-cost broadband connections into a single, efficient WAN, reducing reliance on costly MPLS circuits. Its intelligent traffic routing enhances performance and reduces latency for cloud applications, which can decrease cloud bandwidth costs and boost user productivity. It also centralizes network management and provisioning, simplifying the overall network infrastructure and reducing operational expenses by minimizing the need for extensive IT staff involvement.
Additionally, there are a number of other strategies to reduce networking costs tailored to fit the unique requirements and resources of each organization.
In conclusion, it is likely that the cloud will continue to grow in popularity, given its unmatched convenience and scalability. However, it comes with challenges, particularly for networking teams managing visibility, performance, and security in a complex cloud environment. Effective collaboration between networking, security, and cloud teams is key to ensuring a secure network by implementing measures such as network segmentation, data encryption, and endpoint protection. Equally important is maintaining network performance through quality of service techniques and designing resilient networks with redundancy safeguards. Cost-effectiveness continues to be a key goal, attainable through methods such as network automation, leveraging open-source software, and SD-WAN. Ultimately, the blend of technical savvy and collaborative effort is the cornerstone of a successful cloud network implementation.
Alex Cronin, IT Solutions Architect
Alex is a solutions architect with over 15 years of broad infrastructure experience, specializing in networking and cybersecurity. He aims to deliver solutions that are impactful, scalable, and cost-effective. Alex is a trusted advisor to organizations and IT leaders, helping them make informed decisions about their IT landscape and aligning people, processes, and technology with strategic ambitions.