Get in Touch
Get in Touch


The business value of the network

September 9, 2014

Melanie Posey   

Research Vice President

In just a few short years infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or cloud computing has become an increasingly mainstream IT and applications delivery and consumption model. Businesses look to multi-tenant service provider clouds to deliver benefits, such as increased business agility, lower total cost of ownership, and process efficiency.  According to IDC’s Enterprise Communications Survey, 24 per cent of U.S. businesses currently use cloud infrastructure – primarily for data storage, backup/recovery and variable workload capacity.

However, a number of concerns impede broader and deeper cloud adoption: security, regulatory and compliance issues, application performance, and service reliability and availability. One major factor is the current level of disconnect between the compute/storage stacks and the WAN.

Enterprise end users typically access public clouds via the public Internet which introduces application latency, causes inconsistent network performance, and opens the network to potential DDoS attacks and malware. The next phase of cloud development will require greater convergence of cloud infrastructure and corporate MPLS VPNs, ensuring enterprise-grade delivery of cloud-based applications.

The industry is evolving its cloud strategy from what I would call tactical cloud solutions (i.e. standalone applications in functional silos) to a more strategic enterprise-wide IT approach.  For this to happen, however, enterprise networking needs to come to the party. Current approaches to cloud computing focus mostly on compute and storage as key players in the cloud architecture stack. Typically “the network” gets mentioned only in relation to data center networking or public Internet connectivity to the cloud.

Going forward, however, we’ll see a much larger role for enterprise WANs as companies expand their use of cloud infrastructure from day-to-day IT operations such as data storage and recovery to more transaction-oriented business applications that require end-to-end route control, visibility, and performance guarantees. Network-enabled clouds seamlessly integrate the world of locked-down private corporate WANs and the scalability of cloud infrastructure resources that reside “out there” on the public Internet.

Network-enabled clouds allow enterprises to change the way they think about IT and develop new application development and delivery strategies that more effectively meet the needs of internal and external customers. With on-net clouds, the flexibility and economics of cloud are obtainable without sacrificing control, security or performance of mission-critical workloads.

Not every service provider is positioned to network-enabled clouds. For enterprises looking to take advantage of networked clouds, the ideal partners will have experience, expertise, and enterprise-grade solutions in both the networking and cloud infrastructure domains.

While there are many cloud IaaS providers that enterprises can work with, few have the broader enterprise networking skills to deploy, secure, and optimize heterogeneous on-net and off-net networking and cloud applications. Key selection criteria should include service-level agreements specifically designed for enterprise-class operations and mission-critical applications that guarantee not just availability, but also network performance, latency, and application-level service assurance. Finally, providers with an ecosystem of partners that can expand the functionality of hybrid network-enabled cloud architectures and layer capabilities on top of on-net clouds are ideally positioned to take businesses into the next stage of cloud development.

The ideal service provider partner will have compute, storage and datacenter networking capabilities, as well as the broader enterprise networking and WAN skills to be considered a trusted network-enabled cloud partner to enterprises.

What are you seeing in the evolution of cloud strategy? Leave a comment below.