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How do I build a cloud-ready network?

IT teams can prepare their networks for cloud migrations by planning around their applications, security strategies, remote users and WAN performance.

Enterprises that decide to move processing to a cloud provider must prepare their networks for the migration. That will almost certainly mean upgrading WAN links, but enterprises shouldn't start talking to internet service providers until they've performed a careful analysis of the applications they plan to move.

Here are some considerations enterprises should evaluate when preparing a cloud-ready network:

  • Are you planning to move an interactive application to the cloud or begin using a SaaS platform?
  • Are you simply eliminating the need to maintain the resources for end-of-month processing or application testing?
  • Are you currently operating an in-house private cloud but plan to move some of the processing to a public cloud to create a hybrid cloud?

Look carefully at what network resources each type of application requires. Interactive applications typically don't move a great deal of data across the network. So, high bandwidth isn't necessary, but delay and latency are critical. End-of-month processing and other batch applications typically require more bandwidth, while delay and latency are less critical.

Factors for remote sites

When preparing their networks for the cloud, enterprises should also assess where their users are located and what connectivity is required. Consider the following questions, for example:

  • Are network users all located in a central corporate site, or are some at remote sites?
  • If users are at remote sites, what processing is done at those sites, and will it be moved to the cloud?
  • Will access to the cloud be provided by upgraded WAN links at each site or funneled through a central site?
Look carefully at what network resources each type of application requires.

If your network is not currently connected to more than one internet service provider (ISP), now is the time to add at least one more provider. You may previously have been able to survive a temporary problem with one ISP, but continuous service will now be more vital, especially if you're moving interactive applications.

Other factors to consider for cloud-ready networks

Service-level agreements. No matter what processing you decide to move to the cloud, you must develop strong service-level agreements with both cloud providers and ISPs. They must establish criteria on what actually matters for each type of application -- for example, performance guarantees for interactive applications will differ from batch operations. It's also important to add monitoring resources in order to pinpoint the cause of problems and avoid blame games.

Security. Don't overlook security. Examine the cloud provider's security strategy and any history of intrusions. Determine whether you'll need encryption on links or stored data.

Focus on the WAN. You can reduce current processing resources as you move internal processing. Internal links may be downgraded or disconnected, and servers may be shut down. Those changes mean management attention must transition from a focus on the internal network and refocus on the WAN and overall performance levels of transferred applications.

Take it in steps. Finally, don't move everything at once. Take it step by step, and expect to learn valuable lessons that will ease subsequent moves.

This was last published in February 2020

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