If There Is No Network, There Is No Cloud
As cloud computing increasingly becomes an integral part of our daily lives, is it still revolutionary or has it become just ordinary? Anyone with a smartphone or a tablet is living on the cloud—whether they know it or not.
As more services shift to the cloud, the reliability, security, and quality of the network become of paramount importance. The problem is that a cloud service provider could have a 100 percent uptime service level agreement—which none of them does—but why bother when the applications are delivered through the notoriously unreliable Internet?
OK, so Netflix seems to be slow—but the average user in his home does not know and does not care where the problem is. It could be in the data center; Netflix has had some well publicized outages during the past year. The problem could be anywhere: the application itself, the virtual machine it is sitting on, someplace in the data center network, anywhere along the many network hops, or even the user's own device.
The average user has no way of knowing. That might be acceptable for home users—so the latest Facebook update will have to wait another day—but for the enterprise (or any business for that matter), network unreliability is an unacceptable business cost.
There are several ways to solve the problem. The government has the resources and the security requirements to just build a parallel private network. Telecoms, since they own the networks anyway, are also in the position to build and maintain private networks. This enables them to deliver reliable phone service during power outages and other disruptions.
For organizations that don’t have such deep pockets, there are options for purchasing access to private networks. Think of them more as community networks; they offer the high reliability and security of a private network at a fraction of the cost of leased lines.
These private networks are commonly based on the MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) protocol. MPLS as an Internet Engineering Task Force standard has been around since the late 1990s. It grew out of prior technologies including Cisco's "Tag Switching", IBM's "ARIS", and Toshiba's "Cell-Switched Router,” which were all designed to move network packets through a network fabric more efficiently by applying OSI layer 2 speed to layer 3 flexibility.
For larger companies looking for a data communications technology that offers relatively secure, highly efficient, and flexible networks on a global scale, the carriers’ MPLS service offerings are well worth considering. Companies that benefit most from MPLS are businesses with global reach and complex, changing networking requirements.
Of course, until recently, these private networks were used to connect private systems and data centers. As the enterprise adopts cloud services, the next step is to marry private networks with access to cloud services. TW Telecom have announced offerings that promise to do just that. Expect to see an explosion of interest in more services that let companies enjoy the privacy and reliability of private networking while still allowing access to increasingly critical public cloud services.