Cloud computing is something we talk about a lot and in a recent post, we presented a guide to cloud computing technologies. In this post, we want to go a step further and talk about the network technology that supports cloud computing.
Before we dig into the network technologies that support the cloud, let us first recap on what the cloud is and how it is being used by businesses to become bigger, leaner, and more agile.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing allows users to store data and access programmes over the internet rather than on a physical hard drive or a local computer. Cloud computing providers store and process data in a location that is separate from end-users.
Cloud computing services include:
All these services are delivered over the internet, offering faster innovation, flexible resources, highly available and disaster-resistant systems, and economies of scale.
Cloud computing offers companies a cost-effective way to grow their business on a pay-as-you-go basis – you typically only pay for the cloud services you use. There is also no need to purchase, maintain and service equipment on-premises, again, reducing your IT overheads, not to mention the space required for servers and storage.
You can read more about cloud computing in our comprehensive guide to cloud computing.
What is cloud networking?
Cloud networking is a type of IT infrastructure in which some or all an organisation’s network capabilities and resources are hosted in a public or private cloud platform, managed in-house or by a service provider, and available on demand.
Businesses are slowly starting to shift their network management, control, and data connectivity to the cloud as it offers a more cost-effective way to manage a company’s network.
Whilst many businesses are already using cloud computing, typically through Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, businesses have been slower to shift their network management to the cloud, however, it is anticipated that this number will rise in 2022 and beyond with the spread of cloud-based software-defined WAN, cloud-based wireless LAN management and secure cloud access services.
Businesses can choose to move all their networking resources to the cloud, use on-premise cloud networking resources to build a private cloud network, or more commonly at present, use a hybrid cloud combination of both.
What network resources support the cloud?
There are a number of resources that support cloud networking, and these resources can include:
- Virtual routers
- Bandwidth and network management software
These resources are supported by other tools and functions as required.
A virtual router is a software-based router that can be deployed as either a bare metal image (BMI) or a virtual machine (VM), which is then installed in the cloud. A virtual router can also be installed onto almost any hardware making them an extremely flexible option for businesses.
Virtual routers perform exactly the same work of hardware-based Layer 3 Internet Protocol (IP) routers, essentially using protocols to move data between computer networks along the shortest possible (or most desired policy) path. Common virtual router use cases include edge networking, cloud connectivity, and VPNs.
Cloud firewalls are software-based, cloud-deployed network devices, built to stop or mitigate unwanted access to private networks. There are two types of cloud firewalls – SaaS firewalls and next-generation firewalls.
SaaS firewalls are designed to secure an organization’s network and its users – not unlike a traditional on-premise hardware or software firewall. The only difference is that it is deployed off-site from the cloud.
Next-generation firewalls are cloud-based services intended to deploy within a virtual data centre. They protect an organization’s own servers in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model. The firewall application exists on a virtual server and secures incoming and outgoing traffic between cloud-based applications.
Bandwidth and network management software
Network management is the process of administering, managing, and operating a data network, using a network management system. Modern network management systems use software and hardware to constantly collect and analyse data and push out configuration changes for improving performance, reliability, and security.
Cloud-based network management systems typically have low start-up costs for users since they do not require local servers. These systems also enhance IT agility since they offer IT teams easy access from anywhere.
One defining characteristic of a modern cloud-based network management system is network automation. This is the process of automating the configuring, managing, testing, deploying, and operating of physical and virtual devices within a network.
Why cloud networking?
One of the major contributing factors to businesses shifting to a cloud networking solution is agility. Cloud networking allows businesses to accelerate the time-to-market and increase scale, without significantly increasing costs.
This is particularly true of modern enterprises that are planning for future infrastructure growth. On-premise networking, whilst offering more security since everything is stored on-site, has its limitations when it comes to growth. It is resource intensive, and as a business grows, the resource needed to install, maintain and upgrade the hardware and software necessary to keep the network running optimally also grows.
With cloud networking, your network requirements can grow in line with your business growth, or alternatively, it is easier to reduce your needs in times of redundancies or changes to your business. Cloud networking is also more agile if you are planning on regional expansions. Instead of your resources being tied to one region, you have the opportunity to expand to new regions without disruption to your network as the cloud has no physical boundaries.
It is not unusual for businesses to diversify their networking requirements, adopting a multi-data centre strategy and leveraging multiple clouds from multiple cloud service providers, further increasing their agility and potential cost savings.
Benefits of cloud networking
We have already touched on some of the benefits of cloud networking, and it seems inevitable that more and more businesses are going to move to a cloud or hybrid networking model over the next few years. The benefits of cloud networking include:
Using cloud networking services will allow companies to save on capital expenditures as they do not have to buy their own equipment and software. Maintenance and upgrades to the network are also covered by the cloud provider, reducing the amount of work for the networking team, and allowing them to focus on their role of optimising and managing the network effectively. Cloud networking is typically based on a pay-as-you-go model and these can change as your network expands or shrinks, ensuring you are only paying for the networking requirement you need.
Cloud networking is a much more agile alternative to on-premise network management. Not only can you expand your networking requirements, both in terms of capacity, but also location, but you can also access your network-related data at any time from anywhere as it is stored in the cloud and accessed via the internet. This means that if you are forced into a situation where you need to work from home, your ability to effectively manage your network is not impacted. Staff members can also use their mobile devices to access cloud networking applications when they are working remotely, either on the road or at home.
Tied to agility is scalability. Cloud networking allows you to scale up (or down) and add capacity almost instantly. If this were done in-house, it could take a significant amount of time to set up networking hardware and software, not to mention the space required to potentially expand the networking capacity of your business.
Security is an area of concern for those thinking of shifting to cloud networking. On-premise networking using a local server typically offers greater security for network data since everything is stored on-site, however, cloud networking providers are constantly improving and have strict security measures in place for their cloud networks. Some of the key features include encryption and authentication, data loss prevention, physical security of data centres, firewall implementation, and malware protection. Of course, it pays to ensure that the security of your cloud network matches your own strict security protocols before committing to a switch to the cloud, however, you should find that the security measures are in line with in-house network security measures.
NEC provides cloud solutions for enterprises or services providers to use cloud services or build their cloud environment for optimising operations or starting new businesses quickly and efficiently.
Talk to the team today about our networking solutions.