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Cloud impact: The implications of network cabling

Shibu Vahid, Head of Technical Operations, R&M Middle East & Africa

Shibu Vahid, Head of Technical Operations, R&M Middle East and Africa, discusses the need for speed and flexibility of cabling requirements in the era of cloud and virtualisation. 

Cloud computing is becoming pervasive and cloud-delivered hosted applications are presenting new challenges and business opportunities. IDC predicts that the cloud market alone will have grown into a 45 billion dollar industry by 2014, nearly tripling its business within five years. This ongoing trend towards cloud computing will in turn change the way organisations manage and operate their data centres.

The Cisco Global Cloud Index, which is an ongoing effort to forecast the growth of global data centre and cloud-based IP traffic, predicts that by 2015, more than one-third of all data centre traffic will be based in the cloud. The report states growing adoption and migration to the cloud and the ability of cloud data centre to handle significantly higher traffic loads as the reasons behind this.

Enterprises across the region are eager to jump onto the cloud bandwagon but are now asking pertinent questions about how to leverage this new technology while still maintaining the same levels of security, reliability and performance as were seen with on-premise deployments. At the heart of these discussions are concerns regarding the integrity of the infrastructure required to support a successful cloud deployment and network cabling is one of the key components being assessed.

In recent years, much of the growth that the cabling industry has witnessed has been due to the increasingly prominent role of the data centre. Organisations have shifted their focus from the traditional ‘silo’ approach to one which treats the data centre as a strategic piece of IT infrastructure. The mega-trend of digitisation has meant that data centres now have to deal with volumes of data that were previously unimaginable. Industry experts have already heralded the coming of the zetabyte era plunging data centre managers into a frenzy to implement the most cost-effective, future-proof connectivity infrastructure both quickly and efficiently.

Another technology trend which has driven the need for the deployment of high-performance and robust cabling infrastructure is that of server virtualisation. In many ways is seen as the precursor to cloud computing- the concept of virtual machines not being tied to physical servers allows for the flexible scaling required in the cloud paradigm. While virtualisation reduces the number of physical servers present in the data centre, it translates to a greater utilization of existing resources. What this then means is that a large number of applications are now dependent on the same underlying infrastructure, thereby placing the latency and robustness of the system in the limelight. The flexibility required to implement these developments in the data-centre environment places a new series of demands on the network cabling infrastructure.

Impact of Cloud Computing: The Need for Speed

As server virtualisation paves the way for cloud-based deployments, organisations will now need to ready themselves for a transition to a cabling infrastructure which supports 40 and 100 Gbit/s speeds.

This demand for higher speeds requires higher performing cabling to support the infrastructure. Revision of current standards has led the industry to transition from the use of Cat 6 copper cables to Cat 6A cables. In addition, fiber optic cabling is being increasingly deployed to meet the high speed requirements with OM4 multimode fiber being widely deployed.

Focus on Security

The ability to quickly and securely transfer data to and from the cloud will determine the success of the deployment. The move to the cloud will also require much higher precision and a tighter system design approach. In the case of private clouds, since most applications will be delivered via the network, scaling the bandwidth to meet the requirements of the users will be a must. Also, with the growing use of mobile devices, network managers will need to plan for supporting this requirement in a safe and secure manner.

Flexibility for Migration

Given that cloud computing is still in its infancy, it can be expected that enterprises will chose to gradually migrate their services to the cloud. The challenge then faced is planning an infrastructure that supports the current requirements while still accommodating for future needs. The cloud computing model supports and emphasises the dynamic allocation of services. The ‘on demand’ nature of this technology will result in peaks and troughs in network usage. The physical network then needs to provide the additional capacity to allow for peaks to be handled without significantly impacting capital expenses due to over provisioning.

As security is still a large part of the ongoing cloud discussion, organisations are likely to favour the ‘private cloud’ for their business-critical applications. This may then lead to a scenario wherein the organisation chooses to bring the private cloud assets back into the enterprise. Here too the flexibility of the cabling solution to support the migration with minimal impact on regular business operations will play a key role.

Cloud computing promises compelling financial benefits, ‘on demand’ processing, and reduced management overheads. It is likely to impact the entire manner in which IT delivers information services which will inevitably affect data patterns and traffic levels on the network. Already essential to business success, the network will no doubt assume an even greater significance. It is imperative then that IT infrastructure managers implement the most cost-effective, future-proof connectivity infrastructure with performance, security and flexibility at the top of their priorities lists!

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