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It's safe to say that the enterprise is already well along in its transition to a hybrid cloud operating environment. The numbers tell the story. According to Nemertes Research's 2013-2014 Enterprise Technology Benchmark survey, 95% of companies are already using Software as a Service (SaaS). Forty percent, meantime, claim a private cloud, and 44% are using public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to route their data and services.
The hybrid cloud mixes and integrates internal, external, private and public resources to deliver IT services to the enterprise. What IT pros have to be thinking about today is how to optimize service delivery in the hybrid cloud world, no matter if users are on a wired or a wireless endpoint, at headquarters, in a branch or in a coffee shop.
IT can take charge once again of service performance, even in the age of the hybrid cloud.
At the same time, interconnections among resources in company data centers, colocation space, cloud hosting and SaaS systems are becoming more numerous, complex and critical. Consequently, in addition to the services delivered directly from external sources, an increasing number of services now depend partially on external components. The dependency may be for a single step in a process or workflow, such as the validity check on a postal or email address. Or the dependency might require several outside components, such as capturing a digital signature on an electronic document and archiving that document for compliance purposes.
As a mesh of internal and external resources deliver more services, performance -- the key metric determining end-user experience -- becomes increasingly difficult to predict and control. However, there are new IT tools that can help.
First and foremost, IT has options in how it gives access to SaaS applications. To that end, IT can engineer the network to provide direct-from-the-branch access to the Internet -- either specifically for sanctioned SaaS applications or more broadly.
Second, IT can use existing router class-of-service or quality-of-service controls, WAN accelerators and traffic shapers to prioritize and accelerate sanctioned SaaS applications across WAN links (where it does not provide direct access) and sometimes on Internet links (where it does). Wireless LAN infrastructure is coming to offer some optimization features to support class of service. That will enable IT to deploy such WLANs in locations that use wireless more than -- or instead of -- wired endpoint communications. Even mobile devices can use an optimizing VPN client to improve performance on critical systems.
New IT tools prioritize and accelerate communications -- such as machine to machine -- that take place behind the scenes and are thus invisible to end users. For example, where virtual servers in the data center swap XML-based messages with service components running elsewhere (for instance, another data center in IaaS or on a Platform as a Service environment like Salesforce.com's Force.com), those message streams can be compressed, accelerated and prioritized to improve service performance.
Beyond standard application delivery optimization tools and techniques, IT has other ways to optimize the experience for end users and the enterprise:
- Enterprise service bus (ESB): The ESB can provide optimization services unique to its functions as a message hub, including resequencing of messages for efficiency, compression and multiplexing of streams. By more quickly moving messages among a service's components through the WAN and Internet, ESBs can improve application responsiveness.
- XML gateways: Like the ESB, XML gateways can massage XML traffic to make it more efficient and to speed processing on either end of the message streams -- again boosting application performance.
- Cloud bridges: These devices, most often deployed between internal and external private clouds, can compress and accelerate traffic flowing between resource pools.
Additionally, most of these tools can do things like offload encryption from application servers and perform encryptions and decryptions faster, reducing message latency throughout the mesh of connections.
Working with all these tools (and new ones, as they become available and mature), IT can take charge once again of service performance, even in the age of the hybrid cloud.
About the author:
John Burke is a principal research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he advises key enterprise and vendor clients, conducts and analyzes primary research, and writes thought-leadership pieces across a wide variety of topics. Burke is an expert on virtual networks and software-defined networking technologies, standards and implementations, and also leads research on other IT movements and technologies.