It seems with any new technology, there is no shortage of opinions about the best solution for any given challenge. The Cloud is no different. Some purists insist the IT environment can and should exist solely in the Cloud over the public Internet. Other stalwarts believe their business applications and data must remain within their own private data centers and networks. What’s driving these positions are three of IT professional’s biggest concerns when thinking about whether to move their IT infrastructure into the Cloud: security, performance and control. And while the positions are pretty black and white, I think further consideration into the network side of things opens up a lot more room for grey.
- Security: You can encrypt data in secure tunnels over the Internet and install appliances in front of public-facing ports to ward off misanthropes. This is a common and necessary approach for applications such as retail web sites, and it can be very effective. On the other hand, private networks are physically isolated, so they are more secure, and also do not require special expertise to operate, making them easier to scale. For certain business-critical applications or more complex networking needs, private networks could be a better way to go.
- Performance: If you pick the right ISP to connect to a top-tier Cloud service, chances are your applications will perform well most of the time. But the public Internet transfers data on a best efforts basis, so during peak usage periods when network congestion is at its worst, effective throughput can be reduced by 75% or more. For some applications like email, this level of performance will do. But for many business applications such as storage/ backup and ERP hosting, these n-1 scenarios can create real headaches such as wasted bandwidth, application down-time and lost productivity. Here again, the public Internet will work, but for large data volumes and organizations requiring more responsive, high-availability applications, private networks may provide a better solution.
- Control: With a single connection to the public Internet, you can surf the web, make phone calls and quickly access any number of Cloud services. You control the security, you can add or disconnect a Cloud service and you can easily burst when you need more bandwidth. Today, most VPN services offer the same level of flexibility and control with the additional benefit of built in security and traffic management capabilities. Some network service providers even offer the ability to quickly add or change private connections to leading Cloud services.
All of this grey is actually good news for the IT professional. It means that there are a number of different network solutions to enable your Cloud strategy and they don’t necessarily require you to be all-in or all-out. In fact, a hybrid approach may be unavoidable, if not a valuable differentiator. The public Internet is really well-suited for public applications, some non-critical business applications and as a back-up to private networks which are really well-suited for moving large volumes of data or for when information security and application performance are table-stakes. Use cases where private network connections are important include BCDR, ERP application hosting, Big Data analytics, test and development, media workflow and basic storage and compute.
It’s for these reasons that we developed Level 3 Cloud Connect Solutions, to provide enterprises with private, high-performance network connectivity to leading Cloud services. It’s also why our new strategic relationship with Microsoft Windows Azure is so valuable. Level 3 is creating a new, more efficient way to connect to the Cloud and Windows Azure is an important addition to our ecosystem. Microsoft has a lot of experience and a deep understanding of the private data center and have architected the Windows Azure Cloud platform to enable a hybrid operating environment that can run seamlessly so you can quickly and easily use the Cloud in parallel with your existing data centers and applications, whether it’s Microsoft .NET, Linux , Hadoop or something else. So, whether you expect the Cloud to be a replacement or a complement to your existing IT infrastructure, Level 3 Cloud Connect Solutions and Windows Azure ExpressRoute can provide the private, high-performance network connections to help enterprise Cloud initiatives be successful.
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