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Networked cloud emerges to meet evolving infrastructure needs

Some enterprise network managers are beginning to move networking out to the cloud, as they sort out how to best meet their organizations' evolving infrastructure needs.

The networked cloud is slowly emerging as the answer to any number of enterprise questions. In some cases, organizations deploy cloud networking technologies to more effectively manage applications as they migrate to the cloud. Other companies are easing into a networked cloud model as an efficiency measure because they lack the IT staff to manage their own infrastructure or the in-house security expertise to keep it secure.

Art Chernobrov, manager of identity access and messaging for Hyatt Hotels Corp., said Hyatt turned to cloud networking and management software to more effectively run networked communications between 60 hotels in China and the company's headquarters back in North America.

Chernobrov's team deployed Aviatrix Gateways -- software that creates secure network tunnels between multiple sites, branches and clouds -- at a Microsoft Azure regional facility in China. He said each Hyatt hotel in China has a Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance firewall at the edge of the network, and those devices can only do static routing. With Aviatrix Systems technology deployed at the Azure regional facility, however, Hyatt can now set up secure tunnels with AES 128-bit encryption from the Azure facility to all 60 hotels.

"There's no way we could do that without Aviatrix," he said. "Aviatrix supports all those facilities and does it in a way that each hotel can utilize its existing infrastructure. There's no need for the hotels to purchase added gear."

Gradual deployment

Hyatt Hotels has used the Aviatrix technology as a catalyst for developing a networked cloud infrastructure. After installing a combination of the Aviatrix Gateways and domain controllers in the Azure regional facility, Chernobrov's team used the domain controllers to establish secure authentication between the users in China and corporate headquarters in North America.

"Before we set up the system with Aviatrix, it could take up to five minutes for a user in China to authenticate a session with our corporate office," Chernobrov explained. "Now they can do it in well under a minute."

Once Hyatt saw it could improve authentication speed, the company used the secure tunnels to run its ERP application. As of late September, Hyatt Hotels can now also run Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) through the Azure regional facility.

"So far, we've set up improved authentication, can run our ERP application more efficiently over the secure tunnels and can run patches and updates over the cloud via SCCM," Chernobrov said. "We now have the infrastructure in place to migrate more applications to the cloud."

The reality is that no organization is moving 100% out to the cloud all at once.
Dan Conde, analyst

Chernobrov said along with the 128-bit encryption for security, Aviatrix delivers visibility into the secure tunnel connections -- something they didn't have in their standard relationships with cloud providers such as Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"The tools in Aviatrix let us review the logs so we can see what's going on," he explained. "Overall, the new environment lets us onboard a hotel much faster and lets us scale cloud applications more efficiently, no matter which provider we use in the regions we do business in around the world. We started in China, but plan to expand this worldwide in the months ahead. As far as cloud providers, we'll use the one that makes sense in each region."

GREE, a gaming company based in San Francisco, also uses Aviatrix technology. The service allowed GREE to outsource the network engineer's role more or less altogether, senior operations engineer David Pippenger told TechTarget in April.

"It's worked out really well for us," he said. "We've got games to get out and we don't have to be dealing with the networking stuff."

Dan Conde, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) who covers networking technologies, said the transition to a cloud computing model seldom, if ever, happens overnight. Networked cloud technology such as Aviatrix's, however, helps companies gradually move in that direction.

"Most organizations will be hybrids of cloud and in-house networks," Conde said. "So setting up virtual tunnels will give them the ability to test applications and set up an environment that can help them slowly migrate more applications to the cloud."

Four reasons to build a networked cloud

ESG analyst Dan Conde offered four reasons for moving networking out to the cloud:

  1. Direct connections. Secure network tunnels -- via Aviatrix or an overlay with VMware NSX -- establish direct connections between on-premises data centers and the cloud, thus improving performance of cloud-based applications. The on-premises data center may be a hosting facility like Equinix or a traditional data center.
  2. Scalability. It's often just too expensive for global companies to purchase new, complex networking infrastructure at every remote branch or facility for access to cloud applications. Better to simplify the edge where users connect to the cloud and leverage the scalable networking infrastructure at regional cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google.
  3. Security. By setting up encrypted tunnels, companies can ensure better security than stitching together many custom solutions. And with security personnel at a premium, they can lean on the security expertise of a cloud provider.
  4. Cost savings. By moving to the cloud, companies can use the latest networking technology and reduce overhead on maintenance costs. 

More efficient and secure networks

Companies will also opt to use cloud-based networking tools to run their operations more efficiently and deliver security that they couldn't provide in-house.

Nick Travis, systems administrator at the Motley Fool, said his company deployed F5's Silverline web application firewall for general security and distributed denial-of-service protection. It didn't want to manage the firewall infrastructure in-house and lacked the security expertise to do so.

Travis said Motley Fool has had a long relationship with F5, running the vendor's load balancers as well as its application security manager, so moving forward with F5's cloud-based Silverline made sense.

"We were looking to take risk out of the network," Travis explained. "With Silverline, we don't have to worry about the equipment, and for the most part, all we have to do is approve and dismiss alerts as they come up."

Travis said Silverline also lets them set up custom block policies when they find malicious software on the network such as botnets.

"If we see something specific on the network, we can set up a custom rule to block traffic at the source," he added.

Whether it's to save money or to run applications more securely and smoothly, companies are recognizing that cloud-based networks are here to stay. But as ESG's Conde pointed out, companies can't just flip a switch and be totally up in the cloud.

Fortunately, cloud networking tools from companies such as Aviatrix; F5; and the traditional vendors, including Brocade, Cisco and Extreme Networks, offer plenty of options for moving toward a networked cloud future. 

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