For a Strategic Cloud, Consider the Network

By recognizing the importance of the network infrastructure in cloud computing companies can gain a competitive advantage.

Cloud computing offers a scalable, cost-effective, and flexible solution for storing, managing, and accessing data and applications. However, building a successful cloud strategy requires more than just adopting the latest technologies or signing up for the most popular cloud services. One of the critical components of a successful cloud strategy is the network infrastructure. A well-designed network infrastructure is a crucial component of a successful cloud strategy, enabling organizations to optimize the performance, security, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of their cloud applications and services.

Making the network a strategic component of cloud strategy

Companies sometimes forget to consider the network when building a cloud strategy because of a lack of expertise in designing and managing network infrastructure, misconceptions about cloud computing, prioritizing other areas, limited resources, or even over-reliance on cloud providers to guide them. They may underestimate the importance of network design and assume that their existing infrastructure is sufficient for cloud computing. Instead of viewing the network as a utility service, companies must see the network as a strategic component of their cloud strategy.

Netflix is one example of the benefits of making the network a priority. This popular streaming service uses multiple cloud providers for its operations. The company has invested heavily in network optimization to ensure that its streaming service performs optimally across different network environments. Netflix uses a combination of CDNs, dedicated network connections, and other network optimization techniques to ensure that its service is fast, reliable, and secure across all cloud providers.

But network mistakes can also cost companies significantly. In 2019, Capital One suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of over 100 million customers. The breach occurred due to a configuration error in the company’s cloud network infrastructure, which allowed the hacker to access customer data stored on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The breach led to significant financial losses for Capital One ($80 million in fines and another $190 million in settled customer lawsuits) and highlighted the importance of proper network configuration in a multi-cloud environment.

A robust and efficient network infrastructure is vital for any cloud deployment. A well-designed network architecture can help organizations optimize the performance, security, and reliability of their cloud applications and services. Here are some reasons why the network is so important in building a successful cloud strategy.

Performance optimization

Cloud applications and services rely heavily on the network infrastructure for their performance. Slow or unreliable networks can cause delays, disruptions, and downtime, resulting in lost productivity, revenue, and customers. A well-designed network architecture can optimize the performance of cloud applications by minimizing latency, increasing bandwidth, and reducing packet loss. It can also provide the necessary redundancy and failover mechanisms to ensure high availability and continuity.

Security and compliance

Cloud security is a top concern for many organizations, especially those that handle sensitive data or operate in regulated industries. The network infrastructure plays a crucial role in securing cloud applications and data by implementing appropriate security controls, such as firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems. It can also enable secure connectivity to cloud services using virtual private networks (VPNs), secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates, or other encryption protocols. Moreover, the network infrastructure can help organizations comply with industry and government regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Scalability and flexibility

Cloud computing offers organizations the ability to scale their resources up or down quickly and efficiently to meet changing business demands. However, scaling cloud applications requires a network infrastructure that can adapt to dynamic workloads and traffic patterns. A well-designed network architecture can provide the flexibility and agility to scale cloud services seamlessly without impacting performance or availability. It can also enable hybrid cloud deployments, where organizations can leverage both public and private cloud resources to optimize their IT infrastructure.

Cost optimization

Finally, a well-designed network infrastructure can help organizations optimize their cloud costs. By leveraging network virtualization and automation technologies, organizations can reduce network complexity, simplify operations, and lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their cloud infrastructure. Moreover, by using software-defined networking (SDN) or network functions virtualization (NFV), organizations can provision and manage network services more efficiently, reducing the need for costly hardware and manual configuration.

What are key network obstacles that prevent companies from deploying a successful cloud strategy?

While cloud computing offers many benefits, companies may face some challenges when it comes to utilizing cloud resources efficiently and effectively. Here are some key obstacles in the network that might prevent companies from leveraging cloud resources to their full potential:

Network latency

One of the most significant obstacles to utilizing cloud resources efficiently is network latency. When data needs to travel long distances between the cloud provider and the company’s infrastructure, it can cause delays in accessing and processing data. This latency can slow down cloud applications’ performance, making them less responsive and less efficient. To overcome this challenge, companies can use content delivery networks (CDNs) or place their cloud resources closer to their end users.

Network bandwidth

Another key challenge is network bandwidth. When companies use cloud resources, they must transfer data between their on-premises infrastructure and the cloud provider’s data center. If the company’s network bandwidth is limited, this can cause data transfer delays and make it difficult to transfer large amounts of data. To overcome this challenge, companies can invest in high-speed internet connections and upgrade their network infrastructure.

Network security

Cloud computing also raises concerns about network security. When data is transferred between the company’s infrastructure and the cloud provider’s data center, it must be encrypted and secured to prevent unauthorized access. To ensure network security, companies must use encryption protocols, secure authentication, and access controls. They must also maintain a robust network security posture, including regular updates and patches, to protect against emerging threats.

Network complexity

Cloud computing can also introduce network complexity, particularly when companies use hybrid cloud environments that combine on-premises infrastructure with public cloud resources. Managing network complexity requires skilled IT professionals who can oversee the network architecture and ensure that cloud resources are integrated seamlessly with the company’s existing infrastructure. To overcome this challenge, companies can use network automation tools and hire skilled IT personnel with cloud computing expertise.

Network reliability

Cloud computing can raise concerns about network reliability. Companies rely on their network infrastructure to access cloud resources and ensure that cloud applications are available when they are needed. If the network is unreliable, this can cause downtime and negatively impact the company’s operations. To ensure network reliability, companies can use redundant network connections, disaster recovery plans, and other measures to minimize the risk of network outages.

Prioritize the network in any cloud strategy

To make the network a priority in cloud strategy, companies should:

  1. Consider hiring skilled personnel: Personnel need expertise in network infrastructure and cloud computing to design, implement, and manage their network architecture. An experienced IT team dedicated to the network can ensure that network optimization remains a top priority. If companies don’t have the necessary talent, they may consider hiring these experts. 
  2. Conduct a network assessment: Launching a cloud strategy involves deeply understanding the current infrastructure. Companies should evaluate their existing network infrastructure’s capabilities and identify areas that need improvement to help prioritize their network design and investment decisions and ensure that their network architecture is actually optimized for cloud computing.
  3. Develop a network architecture plan: A network architecture plan outlines the network infrastructure needed to support target cloud applications and services. The plan should include details on the network topology, bandwidth requirements, and security controls to ensure optimal network performance. Any good architecture plan also includes redundancy mechanisms for reliability.
  4. Use network automation tools: Cloud operations can spiral out of control, but network automation tools help streamline network management and reduce complexity. These tools enable organizations to provision, configure, and manage network resources more efficiently, freeing up IT personnel to focus on other critical tasks.
  5. Test and optimize the network: Companies can test and optimize their network infrastructure regularly to ensure that it is performing at optimal levels. This can involve monitoring network performance metrics, identifying bottlenecks and other issues, and making adjustments to the network architecture to improve performance, security, and reliability.

What about multi-cloud?

In a multi-cloud strategy, where companies use multiple cloud providers to meet their business needs, network infrastructure becomes even more critical. Automation tools, for example, are especially needed in a multi-cloud environment where monitoring and maintenance take place across a cloud sprawl. Monitoring is also a critical component.

Here are some other ways companies can prioritize the network in a multi-cloud environment:

  1. Standardize network policies: To ensure that their network infrastructure can support multiple cloud providers, companies must standardize network policies, such as security controls and access management. This can help ensure that the network infrastructure is consistent across multiple cloud environments and reduce the risk of configuration errors and security breaches.
  2. Use cloud-native networking solutions: Companies can use cloud-native networking solutions, such as virtual private clouds (VPCs), to create secure and isolated network environments within each cloud provider. This can help simplify network management and enable companies to tailor their network architecture to the specific requirements of each cloud provider.
  3. Establish network connectivity: To ensure optimal network performance, companies must establish network connectivity between their on-premises infrastructure, their cloud providers, and any other cloud resources they may use, such as SaaS applications. This can involve establishing direct connections to cloud providers or using cloud interconnect solutions to enable secure and reliable network connectivity.

A well-designed network infrastructure is critical

Despite obstacles such as latency, bandwidth, security, complexity, and reliability, companies can prioritize the network infrastructure by hiring skilled personnel, conducting network assessments, developing network architecture plans, using network automation tools, and testing and optimizing the network. By doing so, companies can ensure that their cloud and multi-cloud environments perform optimally. By recognizing the importance of the network infrastructure in cloud computing and investing in network design, management, and optimization, companies can gain a competitive advantage in today’s digital economy.

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