When designing the network architecture companies have traditionally assumed that systems and applications will be housed in their own data centre or that of a provider. 'It's only in recent years that we have seen a major exodus to the cloud', says Mohamed El Haddouchi, Director Solutions & Innovation at Infradata. 'More and more companies are transforming their applications to the cloud. And here they often don't use just one type of cloud, but a multi-cloud environment instead.'
Existing networks aren't designed for this, however, continues El Haddouchi, which means companies start running into many problems.
Mohamed El Haddouchi
An organically grown jungle
What El Haddouchi sees happening in practice is that during this transition, companies will keep adding sections of connectivity to specific clouds.
'This is done in response to demand at that specific moment', he says. Today they might need Amazon Web Services (AWS), for instance, but they might look to the likes of Microsoft Azure and Salesforce later.
El Haddouchi believes that this bolt-on approach may cause organisations difficulty in the coming months and years.
'People don't consider how they as a company can merge their own applications in the data centre with the new applications in the cloud to form a cohesive concept. And so over time this creates a huge spaghetti network, a kind of organically grown jungle with point-to-point network connections all over the world.'
Setting up an integrated LAN environment
But applications seldom are islands that can operate in mutual isolation, El Haddouchi points out. 'Take an application like Salesforce. This can require data from another application which can be, for instance, in AWS or the local data centre. So mutual communication is essential.'
Just like in the past, when you had to build a network environment in the data centre where all applications and databases were optimally linked together via local connections, now you need to set up something similar in the cloud. And you need to make all your cloud environments an integral part of this.
'For this connectivity, a new network architecture is required, in which your cloud environments seem to be housed together with the actual data centre in one integrated LAN environment. In this way, applications in a multi-cloud environment really can communicate efficiently with each other.'
Performance and security
Besides connectivity, organisations also need to consider performance, stresses El Haddouchi.
'If a company requires connectivity with Microsoft Azure, then they often quickly build a VPN service and that's the end of it. But the performance in this solution isn't automatically up to par, while network speed and performance is more important than ever in a multi-cloud environment. In fact, it's even much more important than it used to be in the old on-premises network architecture.'
The same goes for security, continues El Haddouchi. 'While applications used to be relatively secure within the company walls, now the cloud is becoming a regular part of the perimeter. In the old situation applications ran locally; your users were connected to the data centre and it was only from there that they had access to the Internet.'
But as soon as some of the applications and the data are outside the company walls, users immediately leave the perimeter. 'So the new architecture needs a completely different type of security than what you've been used to until now.'
The trend is multi-cloud
Finally, the cost aspect is another important factor to consider. El Haddouchi adds: 'You can set up connectivity with cloud environments in many very different ways. If you don't give enough consideration to the network design, before you know it you've got a complex multi-vendor network environment. Resulting in high monthly costs and a lot of parties whom you have to manage to keep your network operational.'
Analyst houses such as Gartner indicate that in the coming years even more companies will be using the cloud. A large number of them will be operating a multi-cloud environment.
'That's why it's high time to think carefully about how the network of the future should look. Connectivity, performance and security are then the three most important aspects which you need to consider when setting up an efficient multi-cloud network architecture. This also gives you better control of the costs and you need to manage fewer parties.'
Cloud LAN architecture
El Haddouchi likes to use the term cloud LAN architecture. 'That's a modern architecture in which we take a multi-cloud environment and make it into one integrated network again, preventing a complex, overly expensive and difficult-to-manage spaghetti network.'
Multi-cloud can involve environments such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce as well as the applications in your own data centre. 'Genuinely all applications and all your environments are routed tidily into a single network domain again and they're simple to manage.'
Designing a cloud LAN like this is no simple task, warns El Haddouchi. 'This requires a lot of experience and specialist know-how. There are already hundreds of types of clouds and countless network technologies. That makes it a complex affair to mould these into a single well-functioning integrated network.
'What's more, developments are processing very rapidly and so it's very tricky for a normal company to keep abreast of all this stuff. As a company you need to ask yourselves whether you can and want to do all this yourself. You can also contract out the design, and possibly the administration, to a specialist provider so that you can concentrate fully on your core tasks.'
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