By Dominic “Dom” Romeo, Senior Product Manager
When you do business in the cloud, it’s important to stay grounded in a secure, responsive infrastructure that’s flexible enough to meet your changing needs. One part of the hybrid IT story that often gets overlooked is networking connectivity. Yet connectivity can have a huge impact on security, performance and reliability in the cloud.
Though the cloud seems invisible and abstract to most customers, it exists in a physical place, so the laws of physics, geography and IT fundamentals, like networking, matter. Whether you’re just entering the cloud or are looking to expand your presence, be sure you and your provider make connectivity a core consideration.
Here are some key factors to weigh and strategies for ensuring solid security and reliability in the cloud:
First and foremost, some customers have data that they don’t want exposed to the internet in any way, shape or form. Whether it’s PII (personally identifiable information), PHI (personal health information) or credit card information, they need to keep it under tight control. Many customers have evolving investments in network security policies and devices. Leveraging these existing investments is key to extending their security to data that must transit the cloud.
A key term in networking, latency, represents the round-trip time (RTT) it takes to send data across a network. When customers run workloads across different places such as in the cloud and between geographically diverse data centers as in hybrid IT, this can add latency, resulting in slower performance and usability issues for the end user. It’s very common for customers who are inexperienced with running IT in multiple environments to have issues with these environments being too far apart. Our team has a fundamental tenet: you can’t change the speed of light. You can’t make information travel from Omaha to Boston any faster than physics will allow. If you move something 1,000 miles away, then there will be some challenges in the speed of delivery.
Internet VPNs are a very common method for providing connectivity to your cloud resources. However, they are limited to the reliability of internet services. The internet is ubiquitous but not always 100% reliable. Critical applications and data can require service levels that go beyond what we sometimes experience with the internet.
Not all bandwidth needs are created equal. Customers often need help with bandwidth sizing based on their business needs and functions. For example, an architectural and engineering firm uses very large files than can take an inordinate amount of time to save and send if there isn’t enough bandwidth. The amount of change in the environment is another factor that impacts bandwidth. For instance, with eCommerce and point-of-sale (POS) applications, those logs are continuously changing and updating, which is important in disaster recovery planning as well as in bandwidth sizing.
But while there can be connectivity challenges in hybrid IT, there are also strategies for overcoming them or avoiding the issues altogether. Part of TierPoint's hybrid IT approach is around network solutions that help ensure security, performance and reliability.
Here are some ways an IT solutions provider, such as TierPoint, can help customers address these challenges:
Direct connection to public cloud providers
Some customers with security, compliance, segmentation, or bandwidth concerns are opting for a private, dedicated connection to the cloud instead of using the public internet. For larger businesses with established processes, procedures, and network security requirements, a direct connection helps them realize the benefits of hybrid IT as they move more workloads to public cloud environments. Besides greater security, direct connections to a data center can shave milliseconds from latency, making the application in the data center perform that much better.
Interconnect Express (ICX)
Another connectivity option - ICX - allows us to interconnect our customers between multiple TierPoint facilities, providing more flexibility and resiliency to their colocation needs. For example, a customer may have a large investment in colocated hardware that’s still depreciating, but they’ve outgrown the capacity. So they can extend their equipment in our facility by connecting to our Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS) – just paying for the capacities they use -- instead of purchasing new hardware and software licenses. We can interconnect our multi-tenant cloud at one facility to their colocated gear or private cloud at another facility over our ICX network. This frees them up to keep depreciating the investment they made while still having access to the resources they need to grow.
We find DR planning is another use case for ICX. When customers have data centers in geographically diverse areas to mitigate risk of natural disaster, they still need a way to move the data between the two sites, and ICX is a good and flexible fit.
There are other connectivity solutions for optimizing performance in hybrid IT environments, such as cross-connects, content delivery networks (CDN), load balancing, and IP Managed network services. These are all tried-and-tested and round out an effective and flexible connectivity toolkit.
The most important considerations are knowledge and capabilities. You want to be sure your hybrid IT and cloud providers can offer the depth of experience and services to provide the advice and flexibility you need to put together a hybrid IT strategy that meets your IT and business objectives.
Dom is responsible for all things network-related at TierPoint, helping create new products and answering detailed questions from teams to tackle specific customer issues. In the process, he gathers feedback from customer interactions to guide product improvements and create new solutions to meet customer needs.