Today’s organizations rely on their networks to deliver a variety of services to their customers and manage the applications that keep their business going. Cloud computing infrastructure plays an important role in how IT departments approach their network connectivity. Whether they’re operating entirely within the cloud or managing their own assets with a state-of-the-art colocation data center, companies have a number of choices to make when it comes to their deployments.
Read Also: Application Migration Mistakes
How Cloud Networking Works
People often talk about “moving to the cloud” or placing applications and workloads “in the cloud,” but there are rarely conversations outside IT departments about the architecture of these cloud networks or how they actually work in practice. Of course, the term “cloud computing” is a bit of a misnomer because it gives the impression that computing resources exist in some ephemeral state, far removed from the confines of the physical world. In reality, cloud infrastructure consists of multiple servers running in a provider’s data center. Virtualization technology allows cloud platforms to pool the processing and storage resources of that hardware and then parcel it out to customers, which spreads infrastructure costs across multiple users.
Cloud customers can then store data and place entire applications within this virtualized infrastructure. In many cases, they’re able to completely do away with physical servers and rely entirely upon the cloud provider’s computing resources. Since adding more processing and storage capabilities is as simple as provisioning more of the available cloud resources (which are theoretically infinite so long as the provider can continue adding servers), the cloud makes it easy to scale capacity to meet growing demand.
Public Cloud vs Private Cloud
One of the most important distinctions in cloud networking is the difference between a public cloud and a private cloud. Every cloud environment features some element of remote access by which users log into the cloud network from their device over a network connection. What sets public and private clouds apart is who has access to them.
A public cloud is typically owned and operated by a third-party provider who hosts multiple customers on the same infrastructure. While each customer’s deployment is carefully segmented to prevent data from moving between them, they are still being managed within a single, interconnected environment accessible over an internet connection. When most people think of cloud computing or describe the services offered by popular platforms like Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, they’re referring to a public cloud.
Private clouds, on the other hand, are much more specialized. Their computing resources are dedicated to only one organization and are not open to the general public. They can be hosted on private servers in an enterprise or colocation data center, or they can be built upon third-party computing resources from an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider. However they are built and managed, the key distinction is that data and applications are not being stored on shared resources. A public cloud could have hundreds, or even thousands, of businesses operating within the same network, each one operating in its own environment. In a private cloud, only one organization is using the available resources. This makes them far more secure and expensive since operating costs aren’t being shared among multiple customers. Large organizations with highly specialized, IT needs, however, are often more cost effective at scale than public cloud alternatives if they’re optimized properly.
What is Network Connectivity?
When organizations build out their IT infrastructure, they rely on various forms of network connectivity to tie everything together. In most on-premises data solutions, this involves a variety of cables, switches, and routers that link servers together and then connect to internet service providers (ISPs). Two important considerations for network connectivity are latency and bandwidth.
Latency is a measure of how long it takes a data packet to travel from one network endpoint to another. Higher latency creates a noticeable lag between when a command is given and when that command is successfully executed. Distance is one of the most important factors in determining latency because there are physical limitations to how quickly data can move over a network connection.
Bandwidth, on the other hand, determines how much data can travel through a connection at any one time. A high bandwidth connection can handle large amounts of data, while a low bandwidth connection constricts data flow throughout a network. Bandwidth is further complicated by server throughput, which determines how quickly a server processes data. If a server has low throughput, applications could still perform quite poorly even if they’re receiving data from a high bandwidth connection due to a bottleneck effect.
What Are the Types of Network Connection?
In many cases, organizations want to host a private cloud on their own hardware and then connect that private network to public cloud resources. This is best accomplished when their servers are placed in a colocation data center that offers a direct on-ramp to the cloud because it minimizes performance issues resulting from latency and avoids the security risks of transmitting data over the public internet.
There are two main approaches for building these network connections. Organizations can set up a hybrid cloud or build a more complex multi-cloud environment. A hybrid cloud consists of a private cloud managed by the organization and a public cloud environment. Sensitive data and mission-critical applications are hosted within the private infrastructure, but additional processing resources and storage can be easily provisioned from the public cloud. In many instances, data flows freely between the two, spending most of its time within the secure private environment until it needs to be processed by applications hosted in the public cloud. This arrangement makes it easy for an organization to scale capacity when needed by increasing their public cloud spending and then reducing it when demand is low.
A multi-cloud network connection operates along similar principles but incorporates several public cloud platforms that can be accessed through a single portal over a software-defined network. This deployment is best set up within a colocation data center that provides access to multiple cloud providers through specialized networking vendors. A simple cross-connect cable can provide direct, low-latency access to a multi-cloud provider’s connectivity network, allowing the organization to easily pick and choose which public cloud platforms to use while keeping their sensitive data safely within their private environment.
Read Also: Data Center Migration Best Practices
How Does Connectivity Impact Your Cloud Network and Business Operations
Having the right connectivity solution in place can make all the difference in cloud network performance. Hybrid and multi-cloud deployments rely on direct or private connections to link cloud resources rather than the public internet. This approach provides much better security since there is far less of a risk that cybercriminals could intercept data with “man-in-the-middle” attacks. In most cases, these connections also have much lower latency because they take a more direct physical path from colocation facilities to the respective cloud data centers.
Setting up a secure cloud network deployment with the lowest possible latency can substantially boost application performance and better protect customer data. A company that’s colocating its infrastructure in a Pittsburgh data center, for instance, could use a software-defined multi-cloud provider to connect to public cloud resources in Virginia instead of California. Not only would linking to those specific resources cut down on the distance data has to travel, but the direct connection would also be much more secure and pass through far fewer potential bottlenecks along the way, effectively avoiding the dreaded “last mile” problem.
Faster, more secure network performance translates into a better end-user experience for customers. Considering that providing seamless, streamlined services is one of the biggest competitive differentiators for most industries, having the ability to build an optimized cloud network should be a key business priority.