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Living on the Edge: Why Proximity Matters in Cloud Environments

WWT can help you leverage Equinix’s Network Edge to deploy a robust, resilient data center design that connects users to critical applications.

Improve application performance, decrease costs and protect your network with WWT and Equinix

Change is inevitable, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. In recent years we have seen unprecedented change in the way we work, driven largely by mobile devices. It was only a few years ago that we needed a laptop to accomplish daily tasks. Now it is possible to have a productive workday using only a mobile phone.

This change is happening because the apps we use are no longer hosted on a corporate server. They run from cloud and SaaS provider locations and leverage new capabilities that provide enhanced interfaces and better experiences. This has put a strain on corporate networks, even those that were deployed as recently as three to five years ago, because those networks were designed to host the apps locally, not redirect traffic to the external hosting sites. If your data center network resembles this design, it may be time to consider infrastructure modernization.

If the term data center defines the location(s) that host both applications and data, then the term must expand beyond private facilities to encompass multiple cloud and SaaS providers and the interconnects between them. This expansion has created a new location that we can now factor into our multicloud architecture networking designs: the Cloud Edge.

The Cloud Edge: a location in close proximity to the major cloud and SaaS providers that offers affordable, high-speed connectivity. Since applications are no longer contained within the walls of our private data centers, our design criteria must also expand. The Cloud Edge is the best place to connect all these application hosting sites, as well as our corporate WAN and maybe even internet access. You can refer to our recent article for a more in-depth look at the value of proximity to the cloud.

Speed, security and more

Whether you are facing performance issues with your cloud applications, battling data access problems from across multiple cloud providers, or just trying to provide the most cost-effective connectivity for your distributed workforce, you should consider how an innovative Cloud Edge design can play a crucial component of your successful modernization plan.

Due to the remote, distributed nature of cloud-edge facilities, we need to consider innovative new ways to deploy the networks and services that will deliver your applications there. You will want to minimize the amount of hands-on touches that are needed to affect changes. You need the ability to spin up services rapidly and tear them down just as quickly. Security must be factored into every aspect of the design. WAN connectivity will be needed. Interconnectivity and internet access will be needed. Cloud and SaaS connectivity will be needed; and everything with redundancy!

Network Function Virtualization was designed for these specific requirements

There are a number of vendors now making NFV platforms, and most of the networking and security vendors you know have NFV-ready images of their most common platforms. NFV leverages the performance of today’s x86 compute platforms to deploy a virtual environment where you can run multiple network virtual appliances and chain them together to provide the services your applications demand.

As an example of how this can work, you start with an x86 server running a specialized NFV-ready OS. You deploy a virtual networking appliance such as a firewall from a template. The firewall is configured and placed in-line with the applications you want to protect, using the virtual networking capabilities of the NFV platform. If the firewall breaks or gets compromised, you simply deploy a new firewall from the template. If you need to make changes to the config and want an easy back-out plan, you can clone the firewall, make changes to the clone, and then redirect the traffic through the new clone with minimal impact on your operations. If for any reason the changes have a negative impact, you can revert the change and traffic is again flowing through the original firewall.

There are many additional benefits of NFV. Leveraging the virtualized environment, you can now spin up multiple firewalls in the platform, maybe even one per application. Firewall rules are easier to maintain, and each individual firewall only needs to perform at the speeds needed for one application. You no longer need a monster firewall with extreme throughput and 10,000 rules to protect your applications. Add a strong orchestration platform over this NFV environment, and you can distribute the lifecycle management of the firewalls to the individual application owners or developers.

Enter Equinix Network Edge

While many vendors make NFV infrastructure that you can deploy to build your own platform, our friends at Equinix have just released a new product that makes consuming NFV much easier. Their new Network Edge product makes the Cloud Edge accessible to any organization and deployable at a speed that was previously impossible to achieve: Equinix Network Edge, an NFV platform deployed in their major Cloud Exchange locations. They provide the infrastructure, you select the network services and retain control of the service configurations.

This solution allows customers to stand up a virtual environment with all the connectivity needed to connect to cloud and service providers, interconnect with business partners and even terminate their SD-WAN in seamlessly. Customers choose from a list of common network services, such as F5, Cisco and Palo Alto, and can have a robust network running in a matter of hours, not weeks or months. No scheduling of product shipments or remote-hand to do the install. Simply select your location, your network services and launch the service. In the time it takes to spin up a virtual machine, you can have a remote cloud-edge presence.

Designing for Cloud Edge offers a unique opportunity to reduce costs, improve performance and set your organization up for the future growth of cloud applications and services. Equinix has made that even easier by standing up the infrastructure and making it available through their customer portal at their primary Cloud Exchange locations.

WWT can help you leverage Cloud Edge technologies like Network Edge to deploy a robust, resilient data center design that connects your users to the applications that drive your organization. Contact your WWT representative and ask about a Cloud Networking Workshop.