The rise of the public cloud is accompanied by an increased demand for connectivity. This demand is mainly driven by an increase in hybrid and multi-cloud applications. After all, users want the best of both worlds. On the one hand, there's the flexibility and scale offered by the public cloud, on the other hand holds the advantages offered by a data center. The fact that many organizations must deal with legacy systems is also an important reason to connect both worlds.
Case: Azure, Salesforce, Disaster Recovery, and an Own Location
And here, many companies face considerable challenges. An example: A customer can provide its employees with Office365 from the Microsoft Azure cloud and use CRM functionality from Salesforce. The business-critical data is stored on servers in the customer’s own office and, for disaster recovery purposes, an external data center is used. A realistic situation that can lead to a rather complex network topology.
Case: AWS, Microsoft, On-Premises and Data Centers
Another example: Every self-respecting development company uses AWS. If the company also works with Microsoft-based technology, numerous applications will probably also run in the Azure cloud. Some support software will also run on the client’s premises. And the fact that client environments will still be running at various data centers will not sound strange either. The result: numerous data flows, whether independent of each other or not, in a combination of environments.
Continuity, Availability, Security, and Latency
The result of all of these developments is the growing need to connect the various environments. It goes without saying that the average company will need this to satisfy a wide range of requirements. In view of continuity, a company will, of course, also require guaranteed availability. And security will be taken as being self-evident. Another important aspect is latency. If you, as described above, are an Office365 user, you do not want to wait for the connection with the back office. A slow connection, just because the CIO feels more comfortable for his data to remain on the premises. His average colleague will have little sympathy for this position.
Every self-respecting cloud operator now offers its own connectivity proposition. This normally means a cloud-based Software-Defined Network (SDN) that it uses to provide a reliable connectivity service to companies to and from every location. The underlying gateway is a distributed virtual appliance on the periphery of the network. This arranges virtual private networks (VPN) over an IP network. The main advantages given for this are:
Massive cost reductions, compared to more traditional approaches.
Ease of use (simple user interface and API).
Fixed Connection Based on Layer 2 or 3
However, there is a disadvantage to this approach to connecting: the unpredictable nature of the Internet. For this reason, it is also possible to create a connection based on a fixed connection. Here we are talking about a standard Layer 2 (or transparent) connection or Layer 3 routing with various ‘port speed’ options. The main advantages are:
• Improved security guarantee.
• Guaranteed availability.
• Latency limited to the minimum.
Public Cloud and Connectivity Services
The use of the public cloud mentioned above is growing every day. There is an increase not only in scope, but also in the number of providers. And, as already said, every provider provides its own network service. An overview of the main players and their products:
ExpressRoute for Azure.
AWS Direct Connect.
DirectLink for Softlayer.
Google Cloud Interconnect.
Every cloud provider has, of course, its own conditions and technical specifications. For instance, you can often choose for ‘routing’ based on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) or ‘transparent’ connect. However, not every provider supports the latter. In that case, you can choose to use a so-called ‘private overlay’ that is facilitated by a virtual router in the cloud. These are only two examples that come up when providing a cloud-based connection. Normally, it requires considerable expertise in the area of network infrastructures.
Data Centers Develop the Cloud Exchange
In the vast world of network infrastructures, data centers play an essential role. They are also faced with the developments in the area of hybrid and multi-cloud applications. In recent years, they have been confronted with customers that wanted to be connected to the cloud. And with this increasing demand, they have started to see that a good connectivity proposition is an important business driver. This is because customers will prefer to choose a data center if it makes connecting to third parties relatively easy. This has always been the case. However, it was limited to Layer 3-based connections. The rise of various hyperscalers, however, ‘forced’ the data centers to rapidly also address ‘Software-Defined Networking’. And this resulted in the Cloud Exchange. From the marketing perspective, every data center has given this its own name. However, they are all basically the same — on the understanding that there is a difference in the bandwidths that can be purchased and the partners that can be connected. The main players and their products:
Equinix Cloud Exchange
euNetworks Cloud Connect
Interxion Cloud Connect
Eurofiber Secure Cloud Connect
Cloud Connectivity Doesn’t Come Without a Struggle
There is great diversity in providers of both cloud and data center services. Every party has its own connectivity proposition, and every proposition has its own options. Irrespective of this, there is a high degree of complexity and only a few parties understand it in depth. In the area of costs, considerable investigation is required to avoid being faced with unexpectedly high prices. The conclusion, then, is that making the right choice and then implementing a cloud connection will not always be achieved without a struggle.