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Preparing Your Network for Migration to the Cloud

By now, you've heard so much about the cloud, you're probably wondering if the sun will even come out again. The cloud is the answer to all of your IT problems, right? Well, it can certainly solve many current IT challenges, but with migration comes additional challenges. Moving all of your data to a cloud, whether private, public, or some hybrid combination of the two, will have a major impact on your network.

Cisco predicts that by 2016, two-thirds of the world server workload will be run in the cloud with a six-fold increase in data center traffic. That's a lot of virtualization and a lot of data movement. Cloud servers typically run on shared storage back-ends, so a large amount of data will be moving from one part of your LAN to another. Coupled with the built-in high availability and fault tolerant features of your hypervisor of choice, you're potentially moving terabytes, or more, of data from one part of your network to another. This calls for network preparedness.

In your data center, traffic growth translates into robust networks that are purpose-built to handle the unique needs of server-to-server and cloud-to-cloud communications. The days of feeding your servers a diet of one-gig Ethernet are over. Ten-gig access layers in the data center are the new norm, requiring even faster switch-to-switch communication. The old design philosophy of each layer of your network scaling by a factor of 10 holds true, even here. If you have 10 Gig access, your backbone should be capable of moving data at or close to 100 Gigs, which is prohibitively expensive for most companies today. Because of those costs, switches capable of running EtherChannel and multiple upstream data paths should do exactly that. The ability to add that next generation 100 Gig line cards for switch to switch communication will keep you from having to forklift your core in a few years to keep up with the demands your servers and storage put on your network.

Your user access layer is probably 1 Gig Ethernet today, with EtherChannel or 10 Gig uplinks into the distribution or core layers. For most organizations that is fine; after all, user traffic is generally less than 20 percent of the total traffic load in your network according to the recent Cisco Global Cloud Index (CGI). With the current trend to move to a virtual desktop, traditional user access traffic will continue to decline, as more and more of the data stays in the data center.

Wireless Network Impact
One area moving to the cloud that will impact user access is your wireless network. The proliferation of BYOD combined with the explosion of tablet sales means your wireless network is about to get flooded. The biggest problem in the coming years isn't going to be coverage, but contention. How many wireless users do you have per AP, and how much shared bandwidth are they fighting for? According to Cisco research, mobile data traffic is expected to increase 18-fold by 2016. If you think users are complaining about slow wireless performance now, then imagine the number of nodes competing for the same wireless data multiplied by 18. Needless to say, you will need a robust wireless network. Once your wired access layer is stable, and you have a good plan on your data center network, this is the one area that will pay the greatest IT dividends in terms of network upgrades. Have you been following 802.11ac? Are your access points upgradable to support it? They should be because you are going to need it sooner than you expect. The transition to mobile devices, along with the move to virtual desktops and user access, is going to shift away from traditional connectivity models with fixed network requirements. Users will want to be able to access their systems and data securely from anywhere. They probably already do, and some companies are fairly well positioned to handle that shift. That shift will hit your ISP links, hard.

Largest Failure Point
Most companies have a single ISP link. And, in the shift to the cloud, it's probably the largest single point of failure in your network. A large percentage of companies outsource at least one IT application. Most of these vendors are offering online versions of their software. Users are accessing their data and applications from everywhere in the world. Your ISP link is critical, and should be treated as such. As more of your compute, storage and voice requirements move out of your private cloud and into a public cloud, or you connect to a provider's hybrid cloud, your connection to the rest of the world, both through your WAN and ISP connections, will become as mission critical as any other part of your network. Dual ISP links, backup WAN connections, multipoint VPNs, and other high availability connection options should be evaluated. This also impacts your security layer; it needs to be as reliable and fault tolerant as the rest of your network. High-availability UTM or next-gen firewall clusters and redundant DMZ networks should be implemented to help ensure continuous network access.

It's not just the availability of your ISP, WAN, and security layers you need to evaluate, but their capacity. With the shift to the cloud moving data out of your network and into someone else's network, your ISP links are going to need to be bigger and probably symmetrical. Asymmetric bandwidth was successful in the 1990s and 2000s when people were browsing the web and just consuming services from the Internet. Now that we are moving data outbound, not just inbound, being limited to 384k or even 1.5M of upstream bandwidth means you just won't be able to take advantage of the public cloud offerings in the coming years to reduce your cost and operational support complexity. As an example, many companies are moving away from traditional PBX or premise-based voice solutions and moving to a hosted voice solution. That will typically require from 50 to 100 kbps of upstream bandwidth per simultaneous call. Have 100 employees? The math is pretty simple. Add in the bandwidth your users are currently consuming, the data they will consume as more and more data moves to the cloud, your cloud-based backup, your cloud-based DR systems, your hosted e-mail, your hosted CRM and, well, you get the picture.

So you probably need to take a good look at all parts of your network: wired, data center, wireless, WAN, ISP. I'm sure you are ready for the cloud. Is your network?


Contact: Venture Technologies, 860 Centre Street, Ridgeland, MS 39157-4501 800-844-8895 or 601-956-5440 fax: 601-956-3750 Web:
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