Avoid moving from a dumb pipe to a dumb cloud

Avoid moving from a dumb pipe to a dumb cloud

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Back in 1998 when Google Search started to replace AltaVista, could you imagine the company would be laying fiber in Kansas City in 2012 to offer a 100 times faster Internet service? Or that the New York Stock Exchange would evolve from a trading floor in its 1903 building on Broad Street, to offering virtual and physical colocated computing infrastructure services in its New Jersey data center?

The explosion of these new cloud services is being delivered through a mix of providers -- let's call them "New Service Providers" -- emerging from the ranks of established telecommunications companies, data center infrastructure providers and unexpected players like Google, Amazon and the NYSE. Business giants HP, Oracle and IBM are also making moves to migrate into cloud services by building on the full suite of technologies they have amassed over the decades.

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Each understands how critical the network is for cloud services. Each wants to offer a more intelligent, completely integrated service rather than simple "dumb pipe" bandwidth or "dumb cloud" colocation facilities.

Most telecommunication service providers today are wrestling with ways to break into cloud computing.

They are leveraging their expertise in building and managing complex telecom networks (the dumb pipes) to offer differentiated, value-added cloud services to subscribers. And, to address services gaps, some are forming partnerships with others to pull together the missing components of a cloud infrastructure. These partnerships add the flexibility that is essential to compete in the fast-moving cloud marketplace. Others are becoming bandwidth specialists and providing a differentiated network service that connects users to the cloud with lower latency and better throughput performance.

Just as carriers see the value in offering cloud service, cloud providers understand that the cloud is only as good as the network that supports it. In addition to Google's efforts in Kansas City, Amazon Web Services has developed an on-demand, "Direct Connect" Ethernet network service with an ecosystem of partners.

IT services for computing, storage and some networking are also being offered out of uber-sized data centers owned by emerging cloud providers such as Microsoft, IBM and Apple. Oracle, HP and others leverage their integrated compute/storage/networking platforms inside their cloud data centers. Consumer oriented companies like Facebook and Zynga are building their own uber-sized data centers for their unique cloud-based applications, and rely on faster Internet, mobile and Wi-Fi network access for better performance.

The "New Service Provider"

The definition of what it means to be a service provider will continue to blur. In order to find new ways to compete in the cloud market, the New Service Provider will need to offer a range of smart network-based cloud services that best leverage its asset base, whether that is a rich fiber network, extensive data center footprint, unique network services or vertical industry specialization.

The New Service Provider will put all the pieces together through acquisition or partnership. Critical elements to success include:

" Cloud operations software stack integrating the cloud operating system, security, operations, management and billing

" Software-driven service automation, workload orchestration and performance-on-demand

" Inter-data center cloud on/off ramps and networking infrastructure, with hypervisor network virtualization and distributed control plane

" Network operations and management

" Information management tools

" Data center servers, storage, networking

" Data center infrastructure and facilities in multiple locations

This type of provider is only beginning to emerge as cloud applications evolve from the first steps of moving applications to the cloud under software as a service (SaaS), to using the cloud for infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Connecting to many SaaS applications can be accomplished with no more than a standard Internet service delivered by an ISP, or through a companywide shared Layer 3 VPN network.

But as organizations begin to use the cloud for IaaS, the network can potentially break down because standard Internet connections are not built to handle the substantial amounts of information in storage nor the virtual machines now being transferred between data centers. The New Service Provider will need to deploy Carrier Ethernet and packet optical systems to provide the scalability and low latency required by IaaS workloads. And network hypervisor software are essential to virtualize network capacity, which will provide more efficient multi-tenant provisioning, automation and workload orchestration.

The New Service Provider can then leverage the network to increase revenue potential by building new, "cloud-born" applications that operate seamlessly whether physically located in an enterprise data center or in a cloud provider data center.

Today the cloud offers an "unlimited" processing platform with better operating characteristics for cost per CPU cycle, output formatting, input/output and storage. Server virtualization now allows logical units of workload to be orchestrated back and forth in real time both within the data center and also to the cloud. This gives a developer the choice to swing a complicated or CPU-intensive process out to a cloud provider like Amazon for more efficient processing on Amazon's "infinite" amount of servers, then bring the results back in-house. Some of Amazon's customers use this capability for CPU-intensive graphics and video rendering tasks.

Other examples of "cloud born" applications will emerge as developers take advantage of the new cloud-based tools and advanced networking. In much the same way that the cellphone maturation to smartphones drove the development of fourth-generation wireless networks, these new cloud applications will drive networking beyond standard Internet connections to support the delivery of new cloud-based applications.

The pay-off

The New Service Provider will be able to capitalize on the next stages of the cloud era enabled by software driven networking. The next-generation applications will take advantage of tight integration with the cloud platform stack, new tools for security and management integrated through APIs, and tight network integration of on-demand bandwidth, automated deployment and service-level orchestration. Optimization of cloud operations over cloud backbone networks will provide the resiliency and performance management required of next generation applications.

With these new tools, the cloud provides a significant opportunity for small and midsize organizations with data centers less than 1,000 square feet by collapsing their servers and storage into the cloud. The new network to the cloud will change their IT business model, making it more efficient, less costly and more secure.

Larger enterprises and government organizations will also experience the benefits of a cloud backbone network between existing data center facilities and external cloud service providers. Enterprise IT organizations will have much greater agility and flexibility to deploy the workload for the business where it makes the most sense. The operating mantra for these organizations can be summarized as, "own the base, rent the spike."

The New Service Providers will take the business beyond just bandwidth (or dumb pipes), to a more integrated approach to information processing. They will accelerate and expand cloud deployments by enabling more innovative applications that take advantage of the advanced cloud networking and integration of all the cloud components.

Ciena is the network specialist, collaborating with customers worldwide to unlock the strategic potential of their networks and fundamentally change the way they compete. With focused innovation, Ciena brings together the reliability and capacity of optical networking with the flexibility and economics of Ethernet, unified by a software suite that delivers the industrys leading network automation.

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