With everything around us changing faster than anyone could have imagined, cloud computing as an enabler of the digital workplace has become a saving grace to individual users and businesses alike, writes Rajat Mahajan – Hybrid Cloud Manager, GTT — a Tier 1 global IP network provider.
Research conducted for GTT found that IT leaders expected 50% of their workloads to operate in the cloud this year. COVID-19 has only fuelled this movement. As countries have engaged in lockdown policies, remote working has become a new business norm. Many now rely on cloud apps and services, such as Microsoft Teams, to stay connected and continue business as usual.
However, surges in cloud usage do also introduce more strain on what are often already stretched network platforms. Accessing cloud services securely, remotely and effectively requires reliable connectivity. Organisations need a strong network backbone that can ensure security, low latency, flexibility and resiliency.
The hybrid and multi-cloud surge
With businesses having to respond to the increasing demands of cloud usage, there is a drive to move towards cloud-first models. The market is embracing hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. In a survey of public cloud users by analyst firm Gartner, 81% of respondents worked with two or more public cloud providers.
As businesses look to digitally transform, hybrid cloud provides flexibility and agility, allowing businesses to distribute workloads across both public (hyper-scalers) and on-premise private cloud. As a result, organisations can decide which business applications and systems are managed in the public cloud and which will function in the private cloud based on regulations, policies and practical functionality.
Multi-cloud works as a variant of hybrid cloud, optimising the ability to operate across multiple public clouds, such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Service and Google. This allows businesses to manage different business processes across a mix of public cloud offerings.
A hybrid approach is often taken to meet regulatory and security needs across different markets and is supported by a need to drive operational efficiencies. However, intentions to adopt hybrid can often be accompanied by confusion around how to make this shift and how to correctly set up the wide area network (WAN) to support the move.
Cloud connectivity: meeting demand for the future
Given the current climate, and challenges around cloud connectivity, organisations are increasingly thinking about how to manage the underlying network, as they move more towards cloud native applications and away from monolithic, legacy systems. Businesses are increasingly trying to understand how to support cloud applications that require greater flexibility, agility and scalability in a secure manner.
The research conducted for GTT also showed that 26% of IT decision makers have a hybrid approach to support connectivity to cloud applications, flexibly deciding the best network infrastructure option for each application.
Optimising the network to support cloud-based applications is fundamental to achieving digital transformation. As organisations migrate from more concentrated data centre architecture to a more dispersed cloud architecture there is a more agile network architecture requirement. To efficiently make the switch, a software defined (SD) approach is being embraced. The same research showed 68% of businesses planning to use SD-WAN as part of their 2020 WAN strategies.
SD-WAN makes networks easier to configure so businesses can ensure traffic takes the most direct and low-latency path to mission critical applications.
An SD-WAN approach is flexible and can be automated, allowing businesses to do a lot of orchestration which was difficult previously with traditional routing. When SD-WAN is combined with what’s commonly known as a ‘cloud connect’ service, a secure, low latency, low cost private connection that offers direct access to cloud service providers, then it helps improve the performance of cloud applications by limiting any networking issues. Working with a service provider to connect directly into the different cloud providers can take away much of the worry related to potential service degradation for globally dispersed users.
The uptake of the cloud has no end in sight, from the events of this year that have accelerated the move to the cloud for many businesses, to the ongoing shift in organisations rebalancing CapEx spending and OpEx models in line with requirements to gain elasticity and scale. As reliance increases, so will the demand for a cloud optimised network that can ensure security, resiliency, flexibility and agility.
For a seamless cloud migration, key considerations should include connection and integration with a secure global network, transferring workloads between private and public infrastructures and making the best use of your ICT spend. As businesses adapt to the “new normal” where secure access and guaranteed performance of cloud based applications is critical, direct connectivity to different cloud providers has become integral to your network strategy.