By Rajat Mahajan – Hybrid Cloud Manager, GTT
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world has experienced enormous amounts of change. The reliance on a reliable and secure connectivity infrastructure has become front and center. Over the course of the past six months, businesses across all industries, including firms within the financial services industry, have had to pivot to greater use of digital tools and ways of operating, all with the help of cloud connectivity.
Research conducted by Sapio Research late in 2019 highlighted that the move to the cloud would become the norm for businesses in 2020, as many expected to boost their cloud spend. Due to the pandemic, remote working has become key to business continuity, with employees using cloud-based collaboration services, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, accelerating the continued move to the cloud.
Despite cloud connectivity enabling businesses to remain connected, this in turn has put more of a strain on already stretched enterprise networks. To be able to meet the increasing demand and to be able to access cloud services securely and effectively, organisations need an efficient, low latency and resilient network infrastructure in place.
Hybrid vs. multi-cloud adoption
With businesses having to respond to the increasing demands of cloud usage, there is a drive to move towards cloud-first models. The market is embracing hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. In a survey of public cloud users conducted by industry research firm Gartner, 81% of respondents worked with two or more public cloud providers.
As businesses look to digitally transform, hybrid cloud provides flexibility and agility, allowing businesses to distribute workloads across both public (hyper-scalers) and on-premise private cloud. As a result, organisations can decide which business applications and systems are managed in the public cloud and which will function in the private cloud based on cost, data regulations, security policies and operational efficiency.
Multi-cloud works as a variant of hybrid cloud, optimising the ability to operate across multiple public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. This allows businesses to manage services across a mix of public cloud offerings.
A hybrid approach is often taken to meet regulatory and security needs across different markets and is supported by a need to drive operational efficiencies. However, the intention to adopt hybrid can often be accompanied by confusion around how to make this shift and how to correctly set up the wide area network (WAN) to support the move.
Meeting demand with a reliable foundation
Given the current climate, and challenges around cloud connectivity, organisations are increasingly thinking about how to manage the underlying network, as they move more towards cloud native applications and away from monolithic, legacy systems. Businesses are trying to understand how to support cloud applications that require greater flexibility, agility and scalability in a secure manner.
The previously cited research conducted by Sapio Research showed that 26% of IT decision makers have adopted a hybrid approach to support connectivity to cloud applications, ensuring they have the flexibility to choose the best network infrastructure option for each application.
Optimising the network to support cloud-based applications is fundamental to achieving digital transformation. As organisations migrate from a geographically concentrated data centre architecture to a more dispersed cloud architecture there is a requirement for greater network agility. To efficiently make the switch, a software defined (SD) approach is being embraced. The same research showed 68% of businesses planning to use SD-WAN as part of their future WAN strategies.
SD-WAN makes networks easier to configure so businesses can ensure traffic takes the most direct and low-latency path to mission critical applications. The SD-WAN approach is flexible and can be automated, allowing businesses to do a lot of orchestration which was difficult previously with traditional routing.
Getting what you need from SD-WAN
A study by Forrester Consulting showed that an enterprise using SD-WAN can generate an ROI of 213% and investment payback period of less than six months. In order to realise the full benefits of SD-WAN without the risk of unpredictable costs and operational complexities, businesses should consider working with a managed service provider (MSP).
Going down a DIY (do-it-yourself) route may seem more cost-effective, however, businesses should be mindful of the hidden costs that can arise by choosing the DIY method including infrastructure setup, support and on-going maintenance which can significantly increase the TCO (total cost of ownership). Turning to a specialist SD-WAN solution provider to design, implement and optimise your service will positively impact the bottom line and save money in the long run.
When SD-WAN is combined with what’s commonly known as a ‘cloud connect’ service, a secure, low latency, low cost private connection that offers direct access to cloud service providers, it helps improve the performance of cloud applications by limiting any networking issues. Through fixed cloud ingress pricing models, data transfer costs are radically reduced, and cloud workloads can be accessed using connectivity that meets flexible bandwidth requirements. Working with a service provider to connect directly into the different cloud providers can mitigate much of the worry related to potential service degradation for globally dispersed users and applications.
The uptake of the cloud has no end in sight, from the events of this year that have accelerated the move to the cloud for many businesses, to the ongoing shift as organisations rebalance CapEx spending and OpEx models in line with requirements to gain elasticity and scale. As reliance increases, so will the demand for a cloud optimised network that can ensure security, resiliency, flexibility and agility.
For a seamless cloud migration it is crucial to work with the right provider that can offer network expertise, tools and services. Key considerations should include connection and integration with a secure global network, transferring workloads between private and public infrastructures and making the best use of your ICT spend.
As we progress through the different stages of health and safety precautions during this pandemic, the onus will remain on maintaining secure levels of connectivity and guaranteed performance as businesses adapt to the new normal. To prepare for the future, businesses need to leverage cloud connectivity as an integral part of their business strategy.