By Jae Lee, Director of cloud product management, Silver Peak

Businesses are increasingly using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) for its ability to offer fast, agile and elastic computing with minimal operational overhead. These business benefits are driving IT to scale processes off corporate premises toward a hybrid cloud model that efficiently and cost-effectively meets the CIO directive of “asset-lite” IT. The resulting impact to the network is forcing a new look at legacy wide area network (WAN) connectivity, including visibility, control and performance.

Growth of the hybrid cloud

Moving to the cloud means converting capital equipment budget into operational expenditure, managing usage-based / subscription billing cycles, resulting in faster time to value and a leaner infrastructure – key strategic goals of the “asset-lite” requirement. In addition to these business benefits, there are multiple technical advancements enabling workload migration into the cloud, for example, the maturity of networking features, improved cloud security and automation capabilities. 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.

The impact of IaaS on the network

The hybrid delivery model directly impacts the existing enterprise WAN by increasing the complexity of network topology between IaaS sites and customer-owned sites. As hybrid cloud models begin to take hold, WAN performance becomes critical for latency-sensitive workloads and business continuity.

As IaaS migration typically involves at a minimum moving a large set of data across multiple WAN links or Internet connections depending on the type of cloud connectivity, its success is gated by the available bandwidth. When data movement needs to be performed in real-time, long geographic distance, as well as low link quality and slow speeds, can significantly lengthen the time required to complete the initial bulk migration, potentially delaying business objectives. Additionally, enterprises will typically move data both into and out of the cloud, and multi-cloud deployment strategies are becoming best practice for additional levels of data protection.

Addressing the limitations of IaaS

Despite the challenges of hybrid cloud networking, businesses are not required to completely re-think and re-architect their WAN topology as they extend across the internet. Rather, consistency is the most important aspect of hybrid connectivity – the endpoints connecting traditional WAN network, the internet-as-transport network, and IaaS environments should enable IT to manage their hybrid topology as a single performance-optimised WAN fabric. Ideally such a solution requires no changes to the underlying routing infrastructure – essentially, a network overlay that intelligently controls and optimises enterprise applications regardless of consumption model – i.e., whether these apps reside on-premise or in the cloud (either IaaS or SaaS). This approach delivers consistency in the following areas, across the entire enterprise infrastructure:

- Application performance characteristics / site productivity
- Data privacy / compliance to security requirements
- Visibility and control across both traditional WAN and Internet-based connections
- Multi-cloud connectivity / data migration speeds

A stable future

Ultimately, businesses can move toward a much more efficient, scalable and cost effective IT operational model by migrating some of their core services into a hybrid cloud model. Extending into IaaS can be relatively straightforward with a little planning toward consistency and manageability. What’s more, preparing the network now will put them in good stead for future growth.