WAN engineers prepare networks as cloud computing adoption rises

An F5 Networks survey found that cloud computing adoption is high. WAN engineers must make sure their enterprises have the right WAN infrastructure in place to support cloud services.

According to a new survey by F5 Networks of 250 enterprise IT decision makers, 51% of companies are using public cloud computing, and 45% are using private cloud computing. Another 31% of companies are either trialing or implementing public clouds, while 38% are trialing or implementing private cloud computing.

With cloud adoption clearly starting to catch up with cloud hype, now is the time for wide-area network (WAN) engineers to start thinking about cloud computing's effect on the WAN.

"Bandwidth was the single greatest restriction on cloud computing in the past," said W. Kelly Reed, a network engineer with a U.S.-based freight carrier. "Today, with advances in MPLS networks, carriers and private enterprises have more control over the traffic traversing the WAN."

Don Lester, senior engineer at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center in Wenatchee, Wash., said that many external cloud computing offerings are reached via the Internet, which can put enterprises at the mercy of Internet performance.

Today, with advances in MPLS networks, carriers and private enterprises have more control over the traffic traversing the WAN.
 W. Kelly Reed, Network Engineer

"Then the Internet becomes part of your WAN, and there's nothing you can do about that," Lester said. "You can get redundant connections, but ultimately you are traversing from point A to point B and there are things that can happen."

One of the medical center's partner hospitals has started using a cloud-based application that it considers critical, he said. To guarantee performance, the hospital has installed two dedicated T1 lines for the application as well as a DS3 line that connects the hospital directly to the application provider, which is several states away.

Cloud computing, both internal and external, puts even more pressure on application teams to reduce the number of turns applications take and their chattiness, Reed said. This means that network engineers and application development teams need to collaborate earlier. And testing applications that traverse a cloud in a WAN emulation tool like Shunra becomes critical to identifying problems before the application runs across the cloud.

WAN optimization technology can also become critical as cloud computing increases, Reed said.

"Taking application turns and chatty applications out of the equation using tools such as Citrix Netscaler and WAN optimization solutions such as Riverbed, Blue Coat and Cisco allows applications now to transmit over the WAN without being impacted by over-utilization and latency," he said.

F5 Networks' survey also found that enterprises consider network security and access control as important core technologies for implementing cloud computing. Server and storage virtualization have always been recognized as important core technologies of cloud computing, and they remain that way. Eighty-eight percent of respondents identified them as such. But 89% said that network security is important for cloud deployments, and 90% identified access control as important.

"Access control and security should be high up on the list," Lester said. "It should be with everybody, but I don't know if everyone pays that much attention to it. But if you're going to trust an outside entity with your information, you need to make sure they not only have a technology model worthy of that trust but that they're a reputable company that is worthy of that trust as well."

Lester said he remains reluctant to use an external cloud to run critical applications. He pointed out that his hospital uses a SaaS-based payroll application that it accesses over the Internet. He said that application is important, but if it goes down, patient care isn't affected.

"Depending on how critical the application is, we could potentially have one way of connecting to it," he said, "but with a dedicated fallback connection as a backup."

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