Kristine Kropp, EVP, Operations & Service Delivery, FiberLight, LLC
The cloud is everywhere, connecting computers, smartphones, tablets, refrigerators—even clothing. However, of all the places where cloud technology exists today, one of the most prevalent is in the enterprise. Providing testament to its impact, leading IT research and advisory company, Gartner, has predicted that more than half of all enterprises will be using cloud technology by next year–and it will only grow from there.
Innovate or Die
The cloud is revolutionizing the way we conduct business across every vertical in virtually every market. One major group driving its growth within the enterprise is cloud-based Application Service Providers (ASPs) such as Salesforce, GoToMeeting, NetSuite, and others. Deloitte Global predicts that by 2020, 95 of the top 100 largest enterprise software companies will have integrated cognitive technologies into their products. They will do so upon realizing just what positive impact and value these initiatives can have across corporate innovation, agility, and cost-savings. How do I know this? Well, beyond statistics and general industry knowledge, I am now overseeing this cloud application evolution within my own company.
Prior to beginning our own application migration, we, like many of today’s companies, were using over 30 different applications on a daily basis to conduct business. Between the service fees and consultants, the staff required managing the applications and the complexity surrounding the use of multiple vendors. The applications evolved from helpful business tools to strain on our energy, time, and resources. Today, we are in the process of consolidating our 30 different applications to just four–three of which will be cloud-based. In addition to offering cost savings and scale, the move will make our systems easier to manage and much more robust, while allowing us to focus on our core business.
Prepping Your Network for Cloud
An article written by one of our partners said it best, “The Cloud is only as good as a business employees’ ability to effectively connect to it.” Essentially, the performance of an enterprise’s cloud applications is largely dependent on the underlying network infrastructure supporting its cloud connections. Enhanced network connectivity is a critical component to enable a functional cloud solution, both for the enterprise consuming the cloud as well as for the ASP offering it.
So, what is needed for reliable cloud-based application performance from a network perspective? And what obstacles are today’s enterprises and cloud ASPs facing when looking to enable cloud connectivity?
• Fast Connections: Many cloud-based applications used by today’s enterprises are mission-critical, that means downtime and poor performance are not an option.
The performance of an enterprise’s cloud applications is largely dependent on the underlying network infrastructure supporting its cloud connections
For this reason, a dedicated, high-speed fiber base powering ideal cloud connectivity technologies such as Carrier Ethernet are necessary to keep them operating fast at any given point in time.
• Scalable bandwidth: According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, cloud workloads will be more than triple from 20142019. The sheer amount of cloud traffic traversing our networks, combined with continuously fluctuating workloads, require a network solution that is able to scale easily and quickly. Ethernet services offer scalable bandwidth options ranging from 10Mbps-100G. Thus providing the necessary capacity, the bursting protection enterprises need to function on a daily basis, and confidently grow their business in the future.
• Proximity:Minimizing the geographic distance between enterprises and their cloud provider’s application servers can reduce overall network latency by approximately 50 percent, according to Gartner. Choosing a network provider with physical presence where the cloud lives and where enterprises need to connect to it is critical to cloud performance. Cloud connectivity can be achieved over shared connections as well as private, direct connections. Having a presence in a cloud data center and established direct connections to cloud providers can offer additional security as well as cloud service discounts.
• Diversity: As enterprises move more and more of their applications and infrastructure to the cloud, carrier-diverse, redundant network connectivity becomes critical to ensure it all stays up and running, even in the event of an outage. Having a redundant network enables enterprises and cloud ASPs to eliminate single points of failure and ensure maximum reliability for their mission-critical business applications and infrastructure.
• Security and Transparency: Target, Home Depot, even JP Morgan Chase–all huge brands, are compromised by data breaches. With data breaches on the rise and virtual attacks growing more sophisticated by the day, it is no surprise that cloud security is on the top of mind for nearly every enterprise and cloud ASP. The key to overcome cloud security threats lies in owning and managing network infrastructure end-to-end and establishing a dedicated, private network connection to the cloud instead of connecting via a shared connection over the public internet. Furthermore, some of today’s vendors are now offering fully encrypted equipment to provide the option for an even higher level of privacy and security.
Transparency into the cloud environment is also critical to security. Having access to a 24x7 Network Operations Center (NOC) for round-the-clock monitoring as well as a portal that provides visibility into real-time network performance is the key.
The Network Provider’s Perspective
Cloud technology is no longer a thing of the future-it’s here, right now, bigger and better than we ever imagined. While the migration to the cloud and cloud-based applications presents ample and exciting opportunities for today’s network providers; it has also introduced new challenges that need to be addressed to ensure their continued success.
Forward-thinking network providers must stay at the forefront of what their customers need for secure, fast, and reliable cloud connections. This entails not only offering all aforementioned necessities but also having full control over their fiber assets, connections, and presence where their customers want to be. It also has the ability to customize connectivity solutions based on their client’s cloud needs.
As FiberLight lay out and began to execute our own applications consolidation, consideration went into the business criticality of the applications, business continuity planning and specifications for network connectivity. As a network provider, the ability to manage and design network connectivity based on our own equipment and fiber assets did make the transition seamless. However, significant care was still taken to ensure the proper levels of connectivity, bandwidth, and redundancy were in place. It helped us to meet the uptime requirements of our applications as well as the need to service our employees and customers.