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Hubs, Spokes and WANs

Recently, we’ve had a number of discussions with enterprises about how they’d like to use the cloud

Recently, we’ve had a number of discussions with enterprises about how they’d like to use the cloud. The basic use case is around capacity on-demand (not surprisingly), but the specifics have raised some interesting issues. The companies have distributed branch offices that need the capacity for a range of applications, including dev/test environments as well as back-office and web apps. Today, these distributed groups are relying on corporate IT to meet their scaling and infrastructure needs, and they are frequently bottlenecked. This is both in terms of overall challenges in getting new capacity approved in a timely way, but also from a network bandwidth perspective. At a panel this week at Interop, Riverbed noted that 2/3 of their enterprise customers have a hub and spoke model that requires the “spokes” to backhaul to the “hub” for connectivity to the internet, and thus to cloud computing services. Only the remaining 1/3 have direct connections. At the same panel, Blue Coat agreed with the stats but commented that the branch sites are trending towards a direct-connect model as new sites are added.

All this is interesting to us at CloudSwitch since we have been hearing more and more frequently from enterprises that want more “edge” computing, and to empower the branch offices to add capacity on-demand in a controlled but self-service way. This creates a set of new requirements around cloud computing, in terms of both networking and security. In the hub and spoke model, corporate IT maintains control over all access to the cloud, which has benefits on the security and permissions side, but creates potential bottlenecks – both in terms of the need for self-service management tools to increase agility, as well as in bandwidth constraints where the backhaul traffic starts to strain the corporate networks. Backhauling also creates strain on the branch offices since it often adds significant latency to their internet connections.

Most of the vendors at the Interop panel (including Akamai, Riverbed, Ipanema and Blue Coat) claimed to be developing or are already offering WAN optimization products – increasingly in the form of virtual appliances and/or software versions – to help alleviate these bottlenecks. These will surely help, but will become even more important as the branch offices start to have more direct connectivity to the cloud. WAN optimization offerings at the “edge” will be increasingly needed, and cloud service providers are focused on building out these capabilities at their end of the network. Security in a more distributed model will also require some new thinking, since users in the branches will want to maximize flexibility and agility, while corporate IT will still need a way to limit potential threats and exposure created by opening these direct connections.

Underlying all these discussions is the fundamental issue of the laws of physics. As enterprises start to embrace the cloud model, they’ve realized that the major choke-point will be their network bandwidth. Innovation around addressing these issues, especially in the virtualized world of the cloud, will definitely be required. At CloudSwitch, we’re staying closely involved in discussions around customer requirements and vendor offerings to increase performance for workloads moving to the cloud.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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