Cloud hosting has evolved from science ﬁction to strategies, and ﬁnally, reached to the point of being a tactical necessity for the enterprise IT. The IaaS movement, which was stimulated by technical upswings like ‘physical to virtual’ server migration, was also fuelled by aggressive pricing policies. Today, cloud services have become a universe of application lifecycle management with unique offerings such as ‘serverless computing’ and ‘API gateways’. Though cloud computing is commonplace today, the world is set to become progressively cloudier with IoT going mainstream and businesses increasingly moving towards digitization.
Last month I met with the Head of Networks of a large European automobile manufacturer. Along with enterprise networks, his team manages the technologies of ‘connected’ cars. He explained how improved analytics can help in negotiating better insurance rates for self-driven cars. He told that they need data to be crunched in real-time from an ever increasing number of sensors. Predictably, they are not alone! Gartner estimates that 250 million connected cars will hit the road by 2020, and McKinsey estimates each car will generate 25 gigabytes per hour. On the other side of the pond, Virgin Atlantic is testing IoT enabled ﬂights, that can generate nearly half a terabyte of data. Across the board, almost half of the Internet trafﬁc is generated by machines.
Simultaneously, customers are increasingly making purchases through digital channels. Airline tickets is one of the biggest examples. However, mobile applications for everything starting from groceries to plumbing services is undoubtedly the new wave. Also, digital means are used to automate manually intensive activities. Eg, It allows you to simply walk into a doctor’s ofﬁce to ﬁll up the insurance details on a tablet. Finally, digitizing legacy processes is leading to new revenue lines and improved operating margins such as, those through analytics based on Industrial IoT transactions. I recently spoke with a large airline operator who is driving wearable technology and using indoor wireless positioning to provide real-time directions to passengers. With competitive pressures, businesses are increasingly looking at digitization as a means to improve revenues while reducing costs and the time to market. What is extremely critical, therefore, is a platform that lets insanely diverse data to be transported from one end of the value chain to the other in real-time.
In this rush towards the cloud networking, it’s apt to ponder, “What if it rains?”
A key driver for the rush towards cloud computing is cost effectiveness, along with reliable user connectivity. A visible trend has been cut in internet costs. However, improved experience on non-enterprise networks is an upcoming trend. As enterprises initiate a digital or an IoT influenced journey, cloud services serve as an efﬁcient Segway. The path from the user (or branch) to the cloud becomes critical. For example, the automobile industry leader I met, spoke about how he is seeking help in redesigning the WAN for applications associated with the connected cars project.
One of the pioneers of cloud computing solutions, Amazon, launched a beta version of CloudFront, its Content Delivery Network (CDN) in 2008. Amazon realized that as workloads move to the cloud, application delivery will be critical for the migration. Today, it has almost a hundred edge locations around the globe which offer caching and acceleration services. In fact, the platform played a critical role in streaming the ﬁrst 4K videos from space in April, this year. CloudFront combined with Amazon’s Route53 (DNS offering), provides enterprises with better control over user experience for AWS hosted applications. Microsoft Azure has not set up its own CDN, but rather entered into a partnership with Verizon and Akamai. This is in line with Microsoft’s strategy of establishing partnerships across other platforms such as Skype. Two other noteworthy companies to have invested in this space include Apple and Netﬂix —both have launched their CDN services in 2014.
“If moving to the cloud, ensure that the path is not rainy. Nevertheless, keep in mind that not every application will have an address in a public cloud!”
Most large enterprises will retain a hybrid cloud environment for future. Businesses will consume applications hosted across locations ranging from (multiple) public cloud services to enterprise data centers, to SaaS applications. Workloads will require mobility across these locations. Most importantly, users will access these applications from places ranging from corporate locations to the local ‘complimentary Internet’ Starbucks. Intense partner federations and application inter-dependency will require remodeling of traditional partner connectivity services such as site to site VPNs or leased lines. As IoT connectivity takes off, not only will network need to reach the changing trafﬁc patterns, but network policies too will have to be relooked at. With business processes going digital, a plethora of structured and unstructured data will need to take recourse to a radically different approach than what enterprises adhere to, in the current scenario.
Traditional WAN architectures were not designed to accommodate such trafﬁc changes. Hence, a contemporary approach is needed to cater to the modern IT needs - one-size-ﬁts-all approach will not work anymore. For example, some applications might work over consumer grade internet, while others need business grade; Real-time trafﬁc will either need the lowest possible latency or jitter or both; SaaS applications may have the necessity for acceleration to ensure optimum response and experience. All this will be accessed by the same enterprise user.
HCL’s Transport Independence Site framework combines Software-deﬁned WAN access with Network Services Nodes (NSN) to ensure that cloud computing is seamless and cost effective. Driven by the principal to optimize cost per transaction over an enterprise network, the framework provides an ideal platform for growth. For example, it fuels the establishment of an enterprise edge across the globe. This is less expensive than connecting cloud providers to the enterprise datacenter and can also be used to drive universal security policies. Carrier neutral principles at the edge ensures better transport provider peering and improves user experience by bringing the cloud closer to the user. The ‘future proof’ transport independent approach ensures that network is ready at a point where MPLS changes to business Internet and then to 5G mobile. Finally, the software-deﬁned access at the branch implements an overlay that helps make WAN application aware.