The future is bright for the cloud. In 2019, 90% of companies were already in the cloud and this impressive amount is expected to jump another 4% in 2021.
And it gets even more interesting.
By 2024, more than 45% of IT spending will edge out legacy networks and replace them with the cloud. As this reality unfolds, the result will be a long-term change in enterprise IT and supplier landscapes. It also means that knowing the cloud is part of the new normal of IT.
What’s helping to drive these trends? In three words: modern cloud networking.
What is cloud networking?
Cloud networking uses the cloud—a centralized third-party resource provider—for connectivity between network resources. Cloud networking acts as a gatekeeper to applications.
Mastering this concept as an IT professional means that you leverage the cloud for infrastructure, network management, network monitoring, and maintenance. In other words, you design, configure, manage, and fine-tune network resources in the cloud to create simple, complex, and resilient networks. These cloud-based network resources can include:
- Virtual routers
- Virtual private networks (VPNs)
- Virtual firewalls
- Data connectivity
- Load balancers
- Virtual bridges
- Virtual adapters
And there’s more. Cloud networks are flexible. Depending on the project you’re working on, you can decide between cloud-based networking or cloud-enabled networking.
With cloud-based networking, network management software and physical hardware are in the cloud. An example of this type of cloud network would be interconnecting virtual machines for a client or organization.
Cloud-enabled networking combines traditional onsite network infrastructure and cloud access. In this model, the primary network infrastructure remains remote while the network’s overall management is done in the cloud.
The history of the cloud
Much of what has evolved in the realm of cloud computing and cloud networking can be traced back to years of discovery, tweaking, and launching of a wide range of cloud applications.
From as early as the 1960s, the fusion of three concepts shaped the cloud’s definition and purpose: deliver a service, virtualize, and enable network access to services.
These concepts not only carved out a working idea of the cloud, but also provided the springboard for IT departments to look beyond traditional network architecture and make sweeping changes to how they dealt with software and hardware purchases.
From 2005–2011, public and private cloud usage started to gain traction and the first generation cloud emerged. A major driver behind the widespread use of the public cloud was the launch of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (E2C), a web-based service that allows you to rent a virtual server to run applications on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure. This shifted the way of working in IT forever.
Understanding the cloud in the first-generation cloud concept meant knowing which access controls to set in place, CPU requirements, additional software needs, operating system choice, and network capacity requirements. It also meant that companies no longer needed to invest in expensive onsite servers and could optimize network resources for strategic business continuity.
By 2012–2017, the second-generation cloud set the stage with increased use of on-demand pay-as-you-go computing infrastructure and services, DevOps, real-time streaming services, and the idea of hybrid cloud. The computing landscape offered more options, making it easy for data and apps to move between public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud.
Cloud networking vs. traditional networking
As cloud networking continues to evolve, more and more network architects face the same recurring question: Should I take the company’s computing to the cloud or continue with traditional networking? There’s no perfect answer to this question and it depends on what you consider as added value.
First, traditional IT models are one of the most secure networking models. They allow data owners to tightly control their information and how it’s shared without depending on cloud servers. But this comes at a cost: You need to buy different hardware pieces and upgrade them regularly. This can be cumbersome for even the most talented IT teams.
As well, the user experience usually suffers with traditional models. Users are expecting access to data and resources at work the same way they access to data and resources in their personal life—whenever, however, and wherever they like.
On the other hand, cloud networking involves far less user-owned hardware and software. Instead, network hardware and software resources are hosted in the cloud, making it possible to access real-time features on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go basis. This reduces the likelihood of redundant resources and gives network architects a better edge at tailoring specific requirements as different circumstances arise.
Cloud networking vs. cloud computing
Most of the definitions we’ve used about cloud networking so far have been based on the location of the networking infrastructure used to power connectivity between resources. . This is different from cloud computing, which is much more broad than just cloud networking and encompasses all of the computing services required to keep applications up and running on a service provider’s data centers instead of traditional data centers.
While cloud networking and cloud computing are often used interchangeably, there are some differences to take note of.
Cloud networking is concerned with network resources and how these are managed, connected, and controlled in the cloud.
Cloud computing is concerned with applications and services hosted in the cloud. These services can include storage, software, and databases.
The term cloud is shorthand for cloud computing.
5 types of cloud computing
There are dozens of different types of cloud computing, or as-a-service models. Here are five of the most common.
- Software as a Service (SaaS), also known as cloud application services, is a software licensing model that allows you to access cloud-based apps on a subscription basis. You rent the app from the cloud service provider and can access the software on a pay-as-you-go basis. With a simple internet connection, you can access the app without installing expensive infrastructure or hosting. Examples include Dropbox, Mailchimp, and Slack.
- Platform as a service (PaaS), also known as cloud platform services, is a development and deployment environment that supports the full lifecycle of application building, testing, managing, and deployment. Third-party service providers or enterprise clients manage the servers, storage, and networks. Paas eliminates the need for businesses to build a dedicated platform specifically for application development and results in considerable time savings in development. The service is usually available for a monthly fee on an on-demand basis. Examples include Microsoft Azure, Openshift, and Google App Engine.
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), also known as cloud infrastructure service, is a virtualized computing service that provides on-demand services for computing, networking, and storage resources. With the infrastructure services being provided through the cloud, clients can scale up and down according to specific needs. Examples include AWS EC2, Google Compute Engine (GCE), and DigitalOcean.
- Hardware as a Service (HaaS) is a computer hardware solution where the user leases equipment under a service level agreement (SLA). The leased equipment remains the property of the managed service provider (MSP), but at the end of the leasing period, the lessee may have the option to purchase it for a fee, continue to use it, or send it back to the MSP. There are two types of Haas: cloud-based HaaS and onsite HaaS. Onsite HaaS involves leasing IT components such as servers, laptops, and networking equipment. Cloud-based HaaS adopts a pay-as-you-use model for virtual hosting, for example.
- Network as a service (NaaS) is a network purchasing model that allows you to own networks without spending on infrastructure. You gain access to enterprise-wide area network services on a subscription basis. Examples include SD-WAN and data servers.
Benefits of cloud networking
As the cloud evolved, so did the benefits it offered through different resources. Some of these benefits include:
- Lower cost: Without the need to buy and maintain expensive servers and hardware resources, companies save on capital costs. This gives technical departments better flexibility with budgets and allows upgrades for network performance optimization that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
- Minimum downtime: The cloud provider handles all the updates related to the cloud resources it offers. This means one less operational issue for network teams to consider. In most instances, if there’s downtime, it’s communicated in advance, allowing time for alternative solutions to be put in place.
- Scalability: With cloud networking, IT teams can assess business needs and modify capacity as the needs arise. This is usually a seamless process in the cloud but would usually lead to disruptions in the case of traditional networks.
- Productivity: With a service provider leading the maintenance, automatic update, and testing of cloud networks, you’ll find the time spent on administrative tasks is cut considerably. As a result, you can focus on other technical requirements.
- Resilience and elasticity: Uptime and consistent performance have to be factored in when planning the future of a computer network. Cloud networking has proven to be resilient (when planned for) and ensures continuity with the right provider.
Traditional networking doesn’t bounce back easily. A server failure, for example, can mean extended disruption and even data loss. The costs add up, with an average infrastructure failure costing $100,000 per hour, and application failures racking up costs between $500,000 to $1 million per hour depending on the business’s size and networking patterns.
How secure is cloud networking?
Networking resources hosted by a third-party cloud provider often raise a number of security questions. As many as two-thirds of companies and enterprises view cloud security as a significant concern that dampens enthusiasm to push wider cloud adoption.
Cybersecurity professionals have chimed in with their input in the 2019 Top Threats to Cloud Computing: Egregious Eleven report published by the Cloud Security Alliance. Data breaches, misconfiguration, inadequate change control, and lack of cloud security architecture and strategy are ranked in the report’s top three.
However, while the numbers may send shock waves through the cloud networking world, user error ranks as the top cause of cloud security mishaps. According to Gartner, by 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. This number puts network teams in the hot seat, and those who want to avoid becoming another statistic can adopt a series of strategies to mitigate security breaches, such as:
- Having policies in place that clearly define cloud ownership
- A roadmap that accompanies the entire lifecycle of cloud governance
- Defining a cloud management platform that connects both cloud-based applications and onsite
- infrastructure for better tracking, visibility, and problem control
- Implementing data encryption
- Enabling two-factor authentication
- Conducting data backups
- Conducting due diligence about cloud service providers
Overall, ruling out user security errors and oversights by the third-party provider, the cloud offers robust security due to frequent security testing, built-in firewalls, redundancy strategies, and regular security updates.
Considerations for cloud networking
You’ll find that cloud networking considerations fall into two categories: migrating to the cloud and optimizing existing cloud networks. We’ll look at each separately.
Migrating to the cloud
Cloud migration can be a daunting task with the likely outcome being a complete success or disappointing chaos. With strategic planning in place, you can integrate a cloud network into existing technical needs without breaking much of a sweat. Some points to consider:
- Do the necessary checks: Back in the days when an organization controlled networks, network teams had access to a wide range of data to assess network performance and do the necessary troubleshooting to avoid bottlenecks. This is no longer the case with third-party cloud services. Instead, network data are not readily available, and troubleshooting may require data sources gathered from synthetic and end-user monitoring to determine key network performance indicators. By conducting the necessary checks beforehand, network teams minimize the likelihood of errors and identify constraints that will affect latency and user experience.
- Have a migration plan: Will the network be cloud-based or cloud-enabled? Are you considering SaaS, IaaS, HaaS, or NaaS? These have specific requirements to determine application dependencies, licensing requirements, business operations, user experience considerations, bandwidth requirements and whether the application architecture is compatible in a cloud environment. To bring all these different variables together, you’ll need a coherent migration plan to tick all the boxes and identify any potential stumbling blocks. Furthermore, a migration plan brings different team members onboard to contribute key knowledge areas about the network infrastructure and how the existing system differs from the intended cloud migration.
- Clarify your security plan: It’s always good to remember that a cloud service provider may provide security, but it’s up to you to fill the gaps with the tips we provided earlier. In other words, the security of your cloud network is a shared responsibility.
Optimizing an existing cloud network
If you’re already running some or all applications in the cloud, the question is whether your network performance is optimal, and if it’s not, what can be done to improve performance metrics. The answer depends on whether you have a cloud-enabled or cloud-based network and if considerations should be made for public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud. The top cloud network performance metric to consider are:
- Network latency: Network delays slow operations and affect progress. These delays can either be one-way or involving different communication paths. There are three components involved in network latency: round trip time (RTT), server processing latency, and server throughput. By optimizing latency, network teams ensure better network speeds and reduced congestions.
- Bandwidth management: Network traffic control is a fundamental part of cloud network optimization. This involves bandwidth management, where queuing in routers is minimized, non-essential applications are controlled, and traffic and applications are prioritized to ensure the necessary bandwidth is available to the right users.
- Network traffic management: The performance and security of existing networks is closely tied to its bandwidth, traffic patterns, and proactive network diagnostics. With network management tools, you can identify which applications are hampering bandwidth, how traffic patterns are evolving, and control rate limiting configurations.
Is your organization just starting to adopt the cloud, or well on the way to cloud adoption? If your network management system hasn’t kept up, check out Auvik’s cloud-based network management. Try it free for 14 days.
Thanks for the article. It’s so enlightened and informative. I would like you to clarify something for me please. I am presently learning CISCO networking (CCNA), do you think it’s going to be beneficial for me when learning Cloud computing or should I just stop my learning and go for cloud computing immediately.
Thanks for your response.