Cloud computing represents a new way to deliver services on a shared network and IT infrastructure. Today, cloud computing is an important value proposition to a lot of organisations in the Middle East. Previously, information technology (IT) hardware and software were acquired and physically provisioned on site. With cloud computing, the value of these products are delivered on-demand in the form of services over the network. Starting with the e-government initiatives in the region, enterprise and public sector IT organisations are becoming increasingly aware of cloud computing's relevance to their own internal operations.
Chief information officers in the Middle East are increasingly looking into having their IT departments build out private clouds or augment their resources with public clouds that enable their data centres to benefit from this powerful computing model. Cloud computing can vastly improve the scale, agility, and application service levels of the region's enterprise data centres as well as reduce costs. Achieving these results requires close examination of the network itself, which is the foundation of the cloud-ready data centre.
It can be daunting to interconnect a growing number of virtual and physical devices while trying to simplify the network to manage these resources at scale. Management complexity increases exponentially as more devices are added.
Overcoming these obstacles requires a fundamental shift in the way the Middle East enterprise IT organisations build-out their legacy data centre networks. Success in building a scalable, cloud-ready data centre network requires following three critical steps: (1) simplify, (2) share and (3) secure.
Simplification starts with reducing the number of autonomous devices. Measures can be taken to consolidate network layers, increase scale and performance without adding complexity and reduce costs:
- Leverage device density to reduce the number of physical devices
- Employ technologies that enable multiple physical devices to act as one logical device
- Reduce layers of switching to two or less
- Ensure reliable routing connections into and out of the data centre
With a simpler, scalable network to support large resource pools, the next step enables the dynamic sharing of resources for greater agility. This necessitates virtualisation at two levels:
- The virtualisation of servers, storage and appliances
- The virtualisation of the network itself
Another challenge involves maintaining trusted environments and scaling security for pooled resources. To complement the simplification and sharing of the cloud-ready data center, the security services also should be consolidated and virtualised. It is vital to secure data and services at rest and in transit using these and other security measures:
- Secure flows into the data center. Authenticate and encrypt connections to network endpoints Secure Socket Layer and enterprise devices Encryption Protocol while reducing device proliferation
- Secure flows within the data center. Segment the network with VLANs, zones, virtual routers and virtual private network, and use firewalls to protect application-to-application traffic – between servers, between virtual machines and between pods. Also employ application aware and identity-based security policies
- Set network-wide policies from a central location to ensure security compliance. Centralised reporting engines provide historical and real-time visibility into applications and data, and enable IT to perform scheduled vulnerability assessments
It is possible for IT organisations in the Middle East to build data centre networks that offer greater economies of scale, improved application service levels, simpler management and lower costs, by rethinking traditional legacy approaches and preparing for the advent of cloud computing. Simplifying, sharing and securing the network are critical to achieving success in building-out cloud-ready data centres.
- The writer is Enterprise Regional Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, at Juniper Networks. The views expressed are his own
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