How to Build a Cloud Ready Network

By Brian Boguhn
Updated: September 26, 2011

How to Build a Cloud Ready Network

The most popular buzz word in computing circles today is “the cloud”, as in cloud computing. You’d have to living in a cave not to hear it, and even then you might get gist of it. The key to connecting to the cloud is your network. It’s really pretty simple: no network, no cloud. This document will discuss how to build a network out so it is ready to connect to the cloud.

Cloud Service and Deployment Models

Before discussing how to ready a network to make it ready for the cloud, it would be helpful to go over the cloud service and deployment models. The service models detail the kind of service the cloud is offering, and the deployment model describes how the cloud will be deployed.

These are the cloud service models with brief descriptions:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This model provides users with processing, storage, networks, and other computing infrastructure resources. The user does not control the infrastructure, but does have control over the operating systems, applications, and programming frameworks that ride on the infrastructure.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS). This model allows users to deploy applications developed using specified programming languages for frameworks and tools on the cloud infrastructure. The user has no control over the infrastructure, but has full control over the deployed applications.
  • Software as a service (SaaS). This model enables users to access applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The user does not manage the infrastructure or the application other than the limited application specific settings that have been made available.

These service models can run on any of the following deployment models:

  • Private cloud. Operated solely for one organization. They may be managed by the organization itself or a third party, and may be onsite or off premises.
  • Public cloud. Open to the general public or to a large industry group. Owned and managed by a cloud service provider.
  • Hybrid cloud. Combines two or more clouds (private and public). The clouds remain unique in and of themselves, but they are bound together in such a way as to allow data and application portability.
  • Community clouds. Infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community.

What has to happen to the network?

Now that some of the mystery of cloud computing and the types of services and deployments that are related to it have been discussed, let’s focus on what has to happen to a network to make it cloud ready. Plain and simple, the network needs to change.

Cloud computing is changing what is happening on the network. Therefore, adjustments need to be made to the network in the following areas to allow cloud computing to function correctly:

  • Infrastructure. Most infrastructures these days are either virtualized or moving rapidly in that direction. Infrastructure is becoming programmable, and servers and applications have mobility.
  • Applications. The types of applications running on the cloud are forcing networks to change. Many apps are now very data intensive, offer parallel and clustered processing, as well as other high performance features.
  • Access. Virtual desktops have become popular. Mobile devices need access to the cloud as well.
  • Traffic. New types of traffic now travel across networks when cloud computing is introduced. Examples include server-to-server traffic patterns that change and location-independent endpoints on both sides of a service or transaction.

What do you need to do?

The basics of what needs to be done with and to data have not changed. Data still needs to travel between the computing and storage components of an application and then to the user of the application. Security still needs to be applied to make sure that access is granted to those who need it and that those who shouldn’t have it are kept out. Network quality of service (Qos) needs to be maintained as well.

How this is done is what needs to change in order for a network to be cloud ready. Network architecture needs to be flexible. Network services need to be location independent, meaning that they are delivered wherever data, applications, and users are and whenever the services are needed. Lastly, network resources need to be abstracted so that provisioning can be automated and actions orchestrated through common interfaces.

Major networking vendors like Cisco and Juniper are helping companies move to the cloud. Working with a vendor to provide the proper resources to make a network cloud ready is the best option for a company looking to make that move, especially if there is no prior cloud experience within the company’s ranks.

In closing…ask some questions

Ask questions before beginning the journey to the cloud. What should the network be doing for the cloud? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does access to the cloud need to be accelerated?
  • Does security need to be provided for virtual machines?
  • Do virtual data centers need to be created for multiple customers?
  • Does a vast, flat, single-layer network for large clusters of VMs need to be operated?
  • Do users need to be able to move across clouds while maintaining the same credentials?

Keeping these questions in mind will go a long way in making the move to the cloud much easier.

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