A Guide to Cloud Networking

Cloud networking, also called cloud-based networking, involves building a network using cloud services rather than dedicated hardware. It relies on virtualization, with virtualized routers, firewalls, and bandwidth to enable a fully software-defined approach to networking. Cloud networking offers a number of advantages, especially for organizations with a sizable mobile workforce or a large geographic footprint that is subject to regular change.

What is cloud networking?

Cloud networking is a form of IT infrastructure wherein some or all of an organization’s network resources are hosted on cloud platforms. These cloud platforms may be public, private or a hybrid combination of both. In addition to containing virtualized network appliances such as routers, the cloud network also features cloud-hosted network management software. This way, the network can be managed from the cloud. But moreover, the user gets centralized security, management, control, and visibility over the network. That amounts to IT efficiency and agility–they can manage devices situated in different physical locations over the internet. Typically, a third-party service provider operates cloud networking resources for the client. This provider may also offer connections to a cloud-based Wide Area Network (WAN).

Are there different types of cloud networks?

The cloud network model can have an infinite variety of implementation architectures. Variations include the degree of cloud-based versus traditional network infrastructure, public versus private cloud platforms, and so forth. There are also different types of cloud networks in service today. Some are designed for corporate network use cases. Others may be established to serve the needs of telecom carriers. Others still are configured for the unique requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected vehicles, factory automation or smart cities.

See how companies are redefining the WAN in the age of hybrid multi-clouds. Read this guide from Nemertes Research.

What makes a cloud network good?

A good cloud network is one that offers a high degree of agility. If it has “software-defined everything” that typically means elements are hosted in the cloud and available on demand. An effective cloud network makes it possible to set up, change, add or delete network segments in a far more rapid cycle than would be possible with conventional gear. The right cloud network will also include simplified segmentation and essentially endless Virtual Private Network (VPN) capabilities. The cloud network model makes it easy to segment networks for security purposes. For example, it is easier to segment guest WiFi from the employee network using a cloud-based network. Cloud-based VPNs are also simpler, faster and cheaper to set up and change than their on-premises counterparts.

What is cloud WAN and software-defined WAN?

There has been some confusion about the differences between a cloud WAN and an SD-WAN. This is understandable, as the two concepts are similar and overlap, but still differ. An SD-WAN applies software-defined networking (SDN) principles to a WAN. This means it uses software to implement WAN functionality. By uncoupling networking hardware from control mechanisms, the WAN management is simplified. After all, WAN components are easily manipulated via software–when compared to hardware. Learn more about SD-WAN in Masergy’s guide to SD-WAN.

According to industry analysts at Gartner, an SD-WAN should have the following characteristics:

  • Support for multiple connection types, e.g., MPLS, 4G LTE and 5G
  • Dynamic path selection to enable load sharing and resiliency
  • An interface that’s easy to use, configure, and manage
  • Support for VPNs as well as for third-party services like firewalls, web gateways, and WAN optimization controllers

Getting back to the question, WAN and SD-WAN functions may or may not be cloud-based. Network functionality can be hosted in a range of different infrastructure types.

A cloud WAN or cloud SD-WAN are–you guessed it–cloud hosted. For example, cloud SD-WAN has the four properties outlined above, and it runs on a cloud platform.

Is cloud networking good for enterprises?

Done right, cloud networking delivers positive outcomes for enterprise IT. The model enables faster delivery of content as well as better reliability and security—all without the capital investment (CapEx) required with traditional networks. With the appropriate cloud management tools in place, a cloud network also makes it easier to monitor devices and IT operations in real time. Network security issues rise to the attention of network managers more quickly, as well. In the end, investors get many upsides:

  • Faster data transfer
  • More network service reliability
  • Simplified IT management
  • Stronger security posture
  • Typically at lower costs

Don’t miss our help guide, Enabling cloud migration and solving traditional network problems.

What does Masergy offer in terms of cloud networking?

Masergy offers fully-managed SD-WAN and SASE (secure access service edge) services that enable cloud network functionality and cloud-based security too. We can help you build IT infrastructures where physical assets can be replaced with virtual hardware, software, and services.

Think of Masergy as your IT team’s secure cloud onramp–where you can deploy everything from cloud routers and cloud firewalls and also connect directly to cloud service providers and to cloud applications too. Plus, your services are all managed in the cloud and monitored by Masergy. Here’s a quick overview of our cloud networking services and a few ways ours stand above the rest.

Cloud efficiency: Multi-cloud connectivity with active-active configurations

Masergy establishes managed SD-WAN connections between top cloud service providers (CSPs) and your employees, no matter where they are located. This gives CIOs the option of creating networks to multiple CSPs such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure (along with Microsoft 365), Salesforce and a long list of other critical business applications.

While many providers offer direct connections today, here’s how Masergy does it better: We offer direct connections to multiple CSPs on a single network circuit from one location.

That capability is made possible by our active-active configurations for cloud services. This is unique because, rather than using multiple separate circuits to connect to each CSP, Masergy can leverage one single circuit to connect to a slew of CSPs. This efficiency reduces the client’s overall IT complexity while still maintaining enterprise-grade performance.

The ultimate cloud application performance: Multi-cloud connectivity with SLAs

When configured for high availability, Masergy’s direct cloud connections can deliver 100% uptime. Masergy fully-managed SD-WAN provides industry-leading Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and 100% service availability for direct cloud connections. We can architect the system for redundancy, so that if any of the circuits are temporarily down, Masergy’s network intelligently reroutes traffic to the working circuits that are still up. Here’s how we define “configured for high availability” and how the system must be designed in order to achieve this high performance. You must have multiple network circuits coming into a building from at least two different providers and connecting into at least two redundant network endpoints with backup battery power.

Cloud SLAs are unheard of, really. So, why would you want this? Cloud SLAs help enterprises ensure a more consistent and high-quality AWS or SaaS service. When the network carrying your traffic to the CSP is a global software-defined network designed with consistent architectural standards, that means clients gain a more stable, dependable, and unwavering service experience all around the world. When app users are scattered across many locations that can make a difference in ensuring operational consistency and global business continuity. 

Assuming SLAs don’t matter in the cloud is a common mistake. There is a lack of understanding of how SLAs intersect with cloud services and applications. Network service providers, for example, are responsible for the data transfer until the exact moment the traffic is handed over to a public cloud provider like AWS. “Yet most providers don’t offer any cloud SLAs committing to a high level of performance,” says Terry Traina, CTO at Masergy. “Every service is an opportunity for an SLA, and the contract should cover that entire ground.”

Read this CIO.com article on the 15 SLA mistakes IT leaders still make.

More cloud apps, less risk: Proactive security protection

Masergy solutions are also designed for proactive security risk mitigation. By default, all Masergy cloud networks built with Managed SD-WAN Secure have the Shadow IT Discovery feature enabled. Shadow IT Discovery automatically finds all cloud applications on a corporate network then gives a risk score from 1 to 5 to each app, providing the real-time visibility from the cloud to corporate IT so they can instantly identify potential cybersecurity issues.
Masergy operates three Network Operations Centers (NOCs) and Security Operations Centers (SOCs) on three continents, along with a team of highly skilled engineers. Our SD-WAN clients’ networks are monitored 24/7.

How does Masergy help with Cloud Services?

Masergy offers its Multi-Cloud Connectivity service, which gives customers managed WAN-CX connections to their preferred cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, and others, as well as to SaaS applications on demand. This includes direct access to a wide ecosystem of apps that span Salesforce®, Box®, and Zendesk® to name just a few of the hundreds on the list. Coupled with Masergy’s Managed SD-WAN Secure network services, Multi-Cloud Connectivity instantly delivers turnkey private or shared connections to cloud infrastructure and apps.

Proven performance is precisely the reason why Masergy’s network and SD-WAN service is advantageous for your direct connection to the cloud. Unlike other providers, Masergy offers a cloud service level agreement (SLA) that ensures network performance as the traffic travels to the CSP environment.

To clarify, this is NOT an agreement between you (the customer) and AWS (for example)–it’s between you and Masergy (the network service provider offering the direct cloud connection or exchange service). Masergy’s service includes these cloud SLAs:

  • 99.99% availability with redundant cloud connection
  • 99.9% availability with a non-redundant cloud connection
  • Plus, Masergy commits to 100% service availability for cloud connections when architected for redundancy and 100% service availability for SD-WAN sites configured for high availability

Cloud SLAs are unheard of, really. So, why would you want this?

Cloud SLAs help enterprises ensure a more consistent and high-quality AWS or SaaS service. When the network carrying your traffic to the CSP is a global software-defined network designed with consistent architectural standards, that means clients gain a more stable, dependable, and unwavering service experience all around the world. When app users are scattered across many locations that can make a difference in ensuring operational consistency and global business continuity.

A key advantage of SD-WAN is the ability to automatically detect network conditions then route application traffic along an optimal route for a predictable level of performance. Masergy let’s you do that in the cloud. When you pair Masergy’s Managed SD-WAN Secure solutions with Multi-Cloud Connectivity, you can leverage active-active network configurations for cloud service providers, enhancing application performance.

Plus, users get real-time analytics and self-service controls, with the ability to provision virtual connections quickly through the service’s portal. Admins can turn connections up and down with relative ease. Add-on security services are available for threat monitoring and response. Multi-Cloud Connectivity further bolsters cloud security posture with unique in-path security that includes cloud firewalls and global routing from any site.

Learn more about Multi-Cloud Connectivity from Masergy

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