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As various infrastructure vendors promote “cloud in a box” approaches, at times there seems to be a significant omission with regard to the role of the network in cloud computing architectures. Based on my work on Cisco Cloud Enablement Services, on factors that should influence your Cloud Strategy, I’d like to give you insights into one of the key surprises that came out of our own market research into the challenges of cloud adoption,  that really makes me question those who espouse “cloud in a box” as a marketing message. Or, to expand what they say, their “cloud in a box and let’s forget about the network” message. Do they really ‘get’ what cloud is about?

As various infrastructure vendors promote “cloud in a box” approaches, at times there seems to be a significant omission with regard to the role of the network in cloud computing architectures. Based on my work on Cisco Cloud Enablement Services, on factors that should influence your Cloud Strategy, I’d like to give you insights into one of the key surprises that came out of our own market research into the challenges of cloud adoption,  that really makes me question those who espouse “cloud in a box” as a marketing message. Or, to expand what they say, their “cloud in a box and let’s forget about the network” message. Do they really ‘get’ what cloud is about?

As I’ve blogged on cloud enablement, the hype versus reality, and factors that should influence your Cloud Strategy, I mentioned that I’d come back and discuss some areas in more detail.  One surprising insight from our own market research across our customer base was that network bandwidth – availability, reliability, and cost – was a real concern for some of our customers -- not worldwide to be fair, just in certain parts of the world.  But a concern you should examine in any case as part of your cloud strategy.

As another example, in Cisco Services, we are seeing network challenges as we help customers design and deploy Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions.   Often both the data center network, and the access network, need elements of re-design to cope with the projected growth in load as a result of VDI.  It’s clear then -- network access therefore should be considered as part of your overall cloud strategy.   So what can you do about bandwidth challenges?

First though, let’s consider some of the industry hype around “cloud in a box” and the “cloud O/S” [operating system].  How do these approaches solve the network access challenges I describe above?  The answer is – they don’t!  So what can you do about it?

As we all focus on what’s new in cloud computing, it’s often easy to overlook solutions that have already been developed for other network challenges, which we can also deploy to reduce the cost of, and improve the reliability of, cloud computing environments.  One excellent example of this is Cisco’s Wide Area Application Services solution, or WAAS, which Cisco Services has been deploying for a few years now.  This delivers industry-leading WAN optimization to help you reduce bandwidth usage – or alternatively, make the most of lower cost network access links. Cisco WAAS therefore can be a key enabler for bandwidth efficiency and cost reduction in your cloud architecture, directly addressing some of the concerns our customers have been very clear on. 

A terrific example of the benefits of WAAS can be found in our Cisco on Cisco program.  After all, as I learned in my early days in product management, if you can’t use your own product, then who can?  With Cisco WAAS, you can read about how Cisco IT reduced branch office WAN traffic by up to 60% by deploying Cisco WAAS.  I appreciate absorbing yet more technology can be a daunting task given your workload in keeping your business up and running.  To help take some of this weight off your already stretched IT function, to help you adopt Cisco WAAS as part of your data center, VDI and/or cloud architecture, Cisco Services can help you via several years experience in offering the Wide Area Application Services Planning and Design Service.

From this case study, we can see that Cisco WAAS could address some of our customers’ bandwidth challenges related to cloud adoption.  Additionally, the role of WAAS as a solution to these challenges really questions the notion that you can have “cloud in a box” without having strong and innovative networking technologies as the strong underpinning foundation of your cloud architecture.

And this takes me back to my earlier concerns on the “cloud in a box” marketing messages I’ve observed recently from some infrastructure vendors.  Without a focus on the network, and advanced technologies like Cisco WAAS and associated professional services, without a holistic approach to cloud enablement, will your cloud ever get “out of that box”!

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