By Dan O’Donnell
The web is bursting with buzz about “The Cloud” and “Virtualization” as networking nirvana. I have no doubt that these are important developments in networking. Among other things, cloud computing goes to the heart of the old business school adage of sticking to your knitting. If you are a car company, you need to invest in making better cars and let a networking company manage your network. Cloud computing can help companies do just that. Virtualization can help companies get more productivity out of the hardware that they have and grow more efficiently; also, a good thing.
So, what is my beef? It is actually not really a beef, but a warning. These trends pop up from time to time…remember how ATM was going to save the world? Remember Y2K? Remember Beanie Babies? The point is that people tend to get caught up in the buzz. Network operators are people too and can also get caught up in the vendor hype of the latest trends.
You know the Marketing departments are working overtime when “The Cloud” appeared in a Dilbert Comic strip. The point of the cartoon was that companies are jumping on the Cloud bandwagon from all angles. A new Cloud brochure and a fresh paint job is breathing new life into many legacy networking products.
Now, none of this is necessarily a bad thing. It is, in fact, smart business. However, it is important that network engineers and architects analyze these new Cloud products and presentations with a critical eye. The same basic questions must be asked when evaluating new products for the network. Regardless of what it is called, how is this new product going to connect to my network? How is it going to protect my network? How is it going to help my network perform better? How is it going to help cut costs, save energy and reduce footprint?
Clouds are applications or services that are accessed via the web. No real magic. There still needs to be access to the web and the access needs to be secured. Virtual machines are not magic either. They are multiple instances of operating systems running concurrently on a single computer. The access to virtual servers is the same as access to a single server. Performance must be managed and access must be protected.
So, the good news is that as you build your virtual machines and your cloud networks, be assured that it is not much different from the physical networks you have been building all along. Make sure your access is fast enough to meet your demand and secure enough to protect your customers and your company. Fortunately, there are many specialized appliances to help with accessing, capturing, analyzing and protecting your network data. Connecting these appliances to links is as easy as it always was using reliable network access taps.
As we move forward to new dimensions of information storage and networking, I am hearing Talking Heads lyrics… “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was”.
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