A Head in the Clouds?

Depending on who you listen to, and what you read, the Cloud can be an IT nirvana, where the sun always shines, costs are close to nil, and service is never down – a kind of magical land of milk and honey. At the other end of the spectrum, and slightly more prosaically, there is the view that ‘there’s no such thing as the cloud……it’s just using someone else’s computer’.

As so often is the case, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. The cloud and all cloud derived services, from basic IaaS elastic compute to complex UCaaS or CCaaS, have real and tangible benefits, but however good the cloud is (think O365, Skype for Business, Slack, Salesforce etc.), unless your business adapts its Wide Area Networks to fit with, and complement, the change to cloud, it will prove a disappointing and sub optimal experience.

When businesses hosted all of their own IT systems, from mainframes to desktop services and local PBXs, then a network connecting all remote sites and branches back to the mothership datacentre was ideal, with a bit of Internet facing breakout for email and web access etc.

Once a business has decided to derive most of its IT services from cloud providers, with all of the concomitant benefits of reduced datacentre space, less systems and servers to buy, build, and maintain, and lower IT headcount to manage those assets, then the hub and spoke network topology is no longer sensible as the majority of the traffic from a remote site becomes external facing to cloud and internet providers, so why pay to route it all to a central breakout point when it can break out locally?

Security needs more attention as there are more external access points, but this can also move to an edge service if so desired. At the point of inflexion when a move to cloud is the primary approach, a radical review of the networks is also necessary, otherwise it simply won’t be as optimal as it could be, and compromise the success of the cloud venture. This is where Software-Defined wide area networks, or SD-WAN can play a major part, as they deliver the ability to create hybrid networks using local internet access and DSL circuits to complement and rationalise existing MPLS services, with significant benefits of cost savings and better overall performance when tuned to work in tandem with cloud services for CRM, desktop products, UC and contact centre services etc.

Cloud still won’t suit all functions and services in all organisations: there may be security issues, or specific regulatory compliance issues, which cannot easily be fixed in a multitenanted and commiditised cloud model, and it simply may not be viable to build a private cloud to overcome these yet, so SD-WAN can manage that blend of cloud and non-cloud very well also.

If you are an IT Director or CIO, and delivering a promise of better IT services at a lower cost of service, then it makes prudent sense to re-examine your legacy WAN services to make sure they fit with your cloud strategy, as what has worked well before may not be suited to the future.

Don’t let your business strategy be compromised because your networks are old and ill adapted for the future, and lose the benefits of your migration. SD-WAN is a major enabler for cloud migrations, and can make sure that those clouds don’t rain on your parade.


Author: Gary Dudbridge
© Gary Dudbridge 2019

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