Rethinking Network Architectures in the Cloud

The more enterprises come to rely on cloud computing, the more they will see the dynamics of long-held systems and infrastructure development shift. The cloud provides virtually unlimited storage and processing capability, so it is expected that building and maintaining these resources will diminish, for the enterprise at least.

Networking will be a challenge in the cloud

Networking is another matter, however. With distributed architectures now kicked into high gear, the major challenge will be getting data from place to place so that others can process and manipulate it according to their needs.

Small wonder, then, that network infrastructure has emerged as the key growth area in enterprise circles of late. As Cisco found out in its most recent Global Cloud Network Survey, building a cloud-ready network is now a top priority for more than a third of enterprises, pushing past virtualization of on-premise infrastructure and even finding a reliable cloud provider.

Cisco predicts that by 2014, more than half of all workloads will be on the cloud, with worldwide global traffic jumping 12-fold to 1.6 zettabytes (ZB), so the quest to find a cloud-optimized network infrastructure has moved way past the academic stage.

Boosting network performance to cloud-ready levels involves more than just increasing bandwidth, however. It also takes a fair amount of data coordination. HP and F5 are working on an integrated environment designed to provide policy-based configuration across application and network layers. The project joins HP’s Virtual Application Networks platform with F5’s Application Delivery Networking suite to automate the largely manual process of configuration and reconfiguring network resources to suit the dynamic atmosphere of the cloud. Done right, the companies say they can streamline the entire process from application to network to end-user.

Cloud security is really data security

Another key component in all this is security. It doesn’t really matter how quickly legitimate users can access your data if illegitimate ones are getting it, too. That’s why Extreme Networks is teaming up with Fortinet, a specialist in high-performance network security, to devise new approaches to multi-tenant cloud architectures. The goal is to unite Extreme’s 10/40 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switches with the FortiGate Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance capable of providing 559 gigabits per second (Gbps) of firewall throughput for more than 130 million concurrent sessions. The pair has completed interoperability testing but are ultimately on the hunt for a platform that will provide rock-solid security without compromising network performance.

Cloud networking activity is happening all the way down to the silicon level, as well. Cavium has drawn support from vendors like Advantech, Kontron, Lauterbach and others for the Octeon processor, which provides tools like deep packet inspection and hardware acceleration to support high-performance, highly-scalable network environments. The multicore device has seen widespread deployment in cloud, enterprise, data center and wireless environments, all of which are rapidly merging into an integrated data infrastructure.

Of course, network performance is one of those never-ending struggles, with each breakthrough working to set the bar at the next level. The cloud poses a unique set of network challenges, but there at least seems to be a fairly straightforward development path.

If the rise of the Internet and the corporate LAN led to the phrase, “The network is the new computer,” perhaps the corollary should be, “The cloud is the new network.”

Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.