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5 network requirements for cloud computing

Network and cloud teams should consider factors such as bandwidth and latency optimization, security, network redundancy, QoS and network automation in their cloud strategies.

The emergence of cloud computing and SaaS architectures disrupted the overall IT industry and has extended to networking. The convenience of being able to connect and access resources from anywhere in the world has encouraged companies to embrace this technological revolution.

As companies move to the cloud, they want to scale, attract customers and generate more profits. But it's not always easy for network engineers to tackle cloud strategies or work with cloud teams. Collaboration between networking and cloud teams helps companies meet their cloud expectations. Together, those teams should consider the following networking requirements for cloud computing:

  1. Bandwidth and latency optimization.
  2. Security.
  3. Network resilience and redundancy.
  4. Quality of service (QoS).
  5. Network automation and orchestration.

1. Bandwidth and latency optimization

Bandwidth and latency optimization play a crucial role in efficient cloud service delivery. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transferred over a network in a given period of time. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another.

When teams optimize their bandwidth and latency requirements, cloud services can be delivered efficiently. That optimization leads to the following benefits:

  • Improved UX due to faster response time and fewer interruptions.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Increased reliability of cloud services.

Time-sensitive and data-intensive applications require the real-time processing of large amounts of data. This requirement is common in industries such as finance, streaming and healthcare. But it can be challenging to develop and deploy applications with optimized bandwidth and latency.

Below are some methods to optimize bandwidth and latency for applications and workloads in the cloud:

  • Scalability. Teams can scale cloud-based platforms up or down to meet the needs of the application.
  • Elasticity. A cloud-based application can allocate resources automatically to the application as required.
  • Reliability. Cloud-based applications are typically highly reliable and offer high availability.

Another option is to use a content delivery network (CDN), which is a network of servers distributed around the world. CDNs cache content in multiple locations, enabling servers to deliver requested content to end users more quickly. CDNs improve the performance, availability and cost-effectiveness of websites and applications.

2. Security

While the ubiquity of PaaS, IaaS and SaaS architectures makes cloud computing a compelling choice for enterprises, it's not enough to be in the cloud. Companies must also prioritize security to ensure secure data.

Once data is compromised, bad actors have the opportunity to exploit anything they want. They can lock data for ransom, download sensitive files and prevent owners from accessing their network and its resources.

Networking and cloud teams should work with security teams to discuss security designs that protect the company, its users and the overall cloud strategy.

End-to-end encryption

Encryption is paramount to protect at-rest and in-motion data for continuous protection and privacy against cyber attacks.

Enterprises can choose from different types of encryption and security protocols, including Advanced Encryption Standard and Transport Layer Security. These methods encrypt data when it travels from client to server and vice versa. Other encryption methods are available to secure data at rest. Network engineers and cloud teams should choose encryption based on their business needs.

Identity and access management

Identity and access management (IAM) can use cloud-based services to verify who users are and what they can do with the resources. IAM helps manage the cloud access rights of different users and groups, such as employees, IT teams and customers. It also protects the cloud resources from unauthorized access or malicious actors by enforcing security policies and auditing user actions.

Below are some of the benefits of IAM services:

  • It's possible to use a single identity provider, such as AWS, Azure and Salesforce, to authenticate users in a multi-cloud environment and applications.
  • Teams can use a single interface to manage the access rights of users and groups.
  • IAM services can incorporate machine learning to detect and remove malicious access rights that might provoke a security risk.

Network segmentation

Network segmentation is a way of dividing a cloud network into smaller parts called subnets or segments. Each segment has its own policies and controls. Segmentation helps improve security, cloud monitoring and authorized access, and it can result in less risk of data breaches.

Benefits of network segmentation include the following:

  • Improves network performance. It reduces the number of users in specific zones.
  • Protects the network from attacks. A segmented network helps limit the scope of potential attacks.
  • Protects vulnerable devices. Segmentation can stop malicious traffic from reaching devices unable to protect themselves from an attack.

Industry regulations

Cloud computing is an evolving field, and each region in the world has its own regulations. These industry regulations affect providers and users and influence how enterprises use services and share responsibilities.

Some of the most well-known compliance frameworks and regulations are the following:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is a European framework aimed to harmonize data protection across members of the EU. It applies to any organization that processes the personal data of individuals in the EU, regardless of where the organization or data is located.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a U.S. law that regulates the privacy and security of health information. HIPAA-compliant cloud services must ensure that personal health information is encrypted and accessible only to the authorized party.
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO is the global organization that develops and publishes industry standards, including cloud computing.

Some relevant cloud standards to know are the following:

  • ISO/IEC 27001 on information security management systems.
  • ISO/IEC 27017 on security controls for cloud services.
  • ISO/IEC 27018 on cloud privacy protection.
Diagram showing networking factors to consider in cloud computing

3. Network resilience and redundancy

Network resilience and redundancy are crucial for stable networks. Data loss, network misconfigurations, faulty network devices and severe weather are among countless problems that can disrupt the network.

Resilience refers to the ability of a network to resist and quickly recover after a failure or environment changes. Resilience also requires the ability to adjust to network topology changes, detect and respond to outages, and maintain network connectivity.

With redundancy, network teams duplicate system components to increase reliability. Redundancy uses various mechanisms, such as load balancing, data replication and failover clustering, to ensure that data and applications are always available and avoid downtime and outages.

Some types of redundancy are the following:

  • Network redundancy focuses on providing reliable connectivity.
  • Geographic redundancy helps replicate data between several locations. If one data center is affected, the others should remain secure.
  • Hardware redundancy uses multiple fault-tolerant machines to run software and avoid service interruptions.
  • Process redundancy uses a backup process for critical business functions, such as customer service, billing and inventory management.

Benefits of redundancy include the following:

  • High availability to minimize the downtime and disruption of services.
  • Data protection to prevent loss or corruption due to system failures.
  • Cost efficiency to optimize the use of resources and reduce the cost of using proper infrastructure.

A comprehensive recovery plan helps network engineers and cloud teams recover and restore network operations after a failure or catastrophic disaster. The plan includes measures such as data backup, disaster recovery testing and incident response planning.

Cloud providers also offer various sets of tools and services to help customers achieve network resilience and redundancy. For example, Amazon offers Amazon Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Route 53 and Amazon Simple Storage Service. Microsoft Azure offers similar services, such as Azure Site Recovery, Azure Traffic Manager and Azure Load Balancer.

4. Quality of service

QoS plays a crucial role in network management because of its ability to prioritize network traffic based on priorities. It ensures that critical applications and traffic receive the bandwidth and resources they need to perform well, even when the network is congested.

Some of the benefits of QoS are the following:

  • Improved performance of critical applications and services.
  • Improved UX.
  • Reduced latency and jitter.

QoS is implemented at the network layer as part of network management. Network teams can use the following strategies to improve UX and bolster QoS of their cloud-based applications and services:

  • Use a cloud-based monitoring platform.
  • Use a cloud-based CDN.
  • Use a cloud provider with a strong track record of QoS.

5. Network automation and orchestration

Network engineers and cloud teams can use network automation and orchestration to streamline network management. These methods reduce the number of manual configurations and help teams work efficiently.

Network automation uses software to automate repetitive tasks, such as network device configuration, change deployment and device provisioning. Orchestration uses software to manage multiple automation tasks as part of a larger workflow. Basically, orchestration enables teams to run a larger workflow at once.

Benefits of network orchestration and automation include the following:

  • Improved efficiency.
  • Reduced errors.
  • Increased agility.
  • Reduced costs.

Network and cloud teams can use countless strategies to implement network automation and orchestration in the cloud, including the following:

  • Choose a cloud-native automation and orchestration platform. Options include Azure Resource Manager, AWS CloudFormation or Google Cloud Deployment Manager.
  • Choose a hybrid automation and orchestration platform. Options include Ansible, Chef and Puppet.
  • Choose a combination of cloud-native and hybrid platforms. This option is suitable for multi-cloud environments or for automation and orchestration in legacy networks that aren't cloud-native.
  • Start small. Automation and orchestration aren't easy tasks, so start by discovering specific issues before automating the entire network.
  • Test regularly. It's important to test any new network scripts in a staging environment before deploying them in production.
  • Monitor and maintain. After deploying scripts, it's paramount to ensure they work as expected and to stay up to date with network changes.

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