Cloud Network Scalability

Scalability is fundamental to cloud, but unfortunately not all cloud services are created equally. I previously authored a whitepaper “A Guide to Cloud Compute Scalability” to look at compute infrastructure to help service providers understanding issues and limitations regarding hardware, power, density, single vs. multi-tenancy, on-going management. Today, we release the next paper in our scalability series on scaling network resources.

Setting the Scene

Provisioning of networks in a cloud environment presents different challenges to those experienced in an enterprise environment.

Two of the key differences between cloud computing and enterprise computing are scale and homogeneity. A cloud environment is normally provisioned at larger scale than an enterprise environment. Even in large enterprises, individual IT environments are likely to be smaller than cloud deployments, and though (in the nature of networks) there will be connectivity between each part, departmental or functional divisions are likely to be reflected in logical, topological or management boundaries in the networks deployed. Put simply, it would be not be unusual for different parts of the business to have different hardware, under different management. Resources are manually configured, and thus each network configuration for each component may be different, tuned to the exact requirements of the workload. In a cloud environment, the operator gains economies of scale by automatically provisioning a large number of resources in a small number of configurations, and the need to provision and (perhaps more significantly in terms of cost) maintain a wide variety of diverse configurations is reduced.

Typically at a network level this results in a wider and flatter network topology. For the network engineer, at least superficially, the network is likely to be more boring. However, looking beyond the superficial, the challenges are simply likely to be different: rather than facing a series of unique challenges based on arcane features of the network environment involved, challenges are likely to revolve around ensuring scalability of simple functions.

Read our paper A Guide to Network Scalability which goes into more scene setting details, discusses the characteristics that produce scalability challenges, and offers Flexiant’s approach to network scalability.

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