Networking for Nerds

Networking For Nerds: Virtual Connectivity to the Cloud

Ryan Mallory

Cloud computing is virtualized, right? So, shouldn’t your connectivity to clouds be as well?

In today’s digital world, legacy IT and network infrastructures can be huge inhibitors to enterprise cloud adoption. A Riverbed global survey of 1,000 business and IT decision makers in multiple industries reports that 97% of the respondents said, “Their legacy network infrastructure will have difficulty keeping pace with changing demands of cloud and hybrid networks.” [i]

Traditional IT barriers to hybrid cloud success

Traditional IT and network infrastructures can put a big roadblock between you and the promised benefits of the cloud in many ways, including:

  • Centralized corporate data centers: Backhauling cloud-bound user traffic to a central data center over multiple latency-prone connections slows response times, causing users to balk at using cloud-based apps/services.
  • Rigid network and IT infrastructures: Legacy infrastructures can be complex and rigid, inhibiting the scalability and agility of your virtual cloud environment.
  • Complex multicloud connection: Creating individual physical interconnections to multiple cloud providers can be difficult and costly to manage.
  • Intangible IT management: Lack of visibility into cloud traffic and applications can hinder an administrator’s ability to manage and control cloud usage and security.
  • Untenable quality and security risks: Using traditional long-haul networks or the public internet to move cloud traffic between organizations and users increases the risk of errors and cyberattacks.

Obstacles like these are prompting businesses to look for ways to develop more flexible, scalable and cost-effective connectivity solutions to the cloud. Network virtualization technologies such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) offer a promising path to greater flexibility. For example, 93% of the respondents in the Riverbed survey are planning to deploy software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) to gain greater visibility, agility, ease of management and performance of their cloud environments. SD-WANs dynamically direct data flows and optimize performance over multiple WANs when moving traffic to users at the edge.

Deploying virtual network services next to clouds

Just as buying a house close to where you work is an important criteria for many homebuyers, location is everything when it comes to accessing cloud services. As many companies have already experienced, the cloud service they need to connect to could be clear across the country from their corporate data center or users. This creates a domino effect of latency-induced delays across multi-hop WANs that impact cloud responsiveness and ultimately user satisfaction.

NFV and SDN enable the virtual deployment of network services (e.g., virtual routers, firewalls, WAN load balancers) close to clouds and users on commodity hardware, freeing organizations from needing to physically deploy costly specialized network appliances.

But what if you want to access multiple cloud services in metros where you have large numbers of users? No problem. That is exactly what a virtualized network infrastructure enables you to do ꟷ place network access to clouds virtually, wherever you want, whenever you want from the comfort of your desktop.

Bringing network services to users at the edge

The traditional IT and network infrastructure model brings users to the network services. A virtualized network infrastructure flips that model by delivering services directly to the users. For example, the recently announced Network Edge offering on Platform Equinix® enables IT organizations to select, configure and connect virtual network services from industry-leading vendors at the edge in minutes-without additional space, power, hardware or equipment.

How is this different than working with an NFV or SDN provider to virtualize network service delivery? First, Network Edge is vendor-neutral, so you can select from a number of leading NFV service providers, such as Cisco, Juniper and Palo Alto Networks without being locked into a single vendor. Second, Network Edge has built-in integration with Equinix’s global on-demand, SDN-enabled interconnection service, Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™). Together, Network Edge and ECX Fabric provide a direct and secure superhighway to thousands of cloud providers around the world.

By leveraging private interconnection to virtual network and cloud services, companies can more easily, quickly and cost-effectively master the top cloud use cases that fuel digital business including:

  • Cloud-to-cloud routing to span applications across multiple clouds.
  • Cloud-to-cloud data migration to efficiently move large amounts of data from one cloud to another when conducting back-ups, migrations or analytics.
  • Hybrid cloud firewall to protect resources on the corporate network from public facing endpoints, either using a stand-alone virtual firewall or in conjunction with a physical firewall.
  • Branch-to-cloud SD-WAN to optimize connectivity between branch locations, cloud providers, SaaS providers and thousands of potential business partners on Platform Equinix.

How it all works

From the ECX Fabric Customer Portal, you can deploy a virtual network device in just minutes.

 

First, select the virtual device that you want to deploy.

 

Then select the metro where you’d like to deploy that device.

 

Select your licensing option – an Equinix subscription model or bring your own license from your NFV supplier.

 

Create your virtual device via the Equinix orchestration platform.

 

Success, your virtual device has been created is ready to deploy!

 

Once your device is provisioned, select the cloud or SaaS service you would like to connect to.

 

Select the location(s) where you want to connect to that cloud/SaaS service. With ECX Fabric, you can easily select multiple metros to privately connect to the cloud providers of your choice in minutes!

You can view the entire Network Edge service deployment and cloud interconnection process by viewing the Network Edge webinar.

You can also see how it all works by signing up for a Network Edge trial.

[i] Riverbed, “The Future of Global Networking Survey 2017.”