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Is your network ready for the cloud?

Shutterstock image:  cloud computing enabling numerous applications.

Cloud apps are like sports cars. They promise speed and efficiency for federal agencies, but need smooth, open roads to achieve peak performance. That’s where agency networks come in. You wouldn’t race a Ferrari on a dirt road or a congested highway, and performance similarly suffers for cloud applications used across congested, or latent, networks.

So as federal CIOs test drive the cloud, they must ask themselves one very important question: How do we tune up our network?

A recent survey by Amazon Web Services found that the top three challenges for cloud apps are reliability, availability and performance. While organizations might save on IT costs by moving to the cloud, they must be careful not to lower organizational productivity through performance challenges that can occur as employees process transactions in the cloud. Agencies need a well-thought-out plan regarding value, reliability, performance and cost. The good news is that there are a few simple ways to turbocharge performance, and maximize the speed of agency business, when migrating to the cloud.

First things first -- assess the infrastructure

Before you optimize, you should fully understand the infrastructure you have, and how applications are performing across it. One way to gain this crucial insight is through "application-aware" network performance monitoring tools. They provide functions analogous to the GPS, warning lights and diagnostic sensors in your car -- but for the applications and networks in your organization.

Once implemented, these solutions automate and streamline the collection of important performance data into a single dashboard, empowering federal IT leaders to highlight issues and forensically analyze the root causes of performance constraints, errors and slow downs. Much like your car’s instrument panel, performance dashboards provide vital insight into how your network resources handle your cloud apps.

Analyze the situation -- predictive modeling

Once you have clear visibility into current network and application performance, it’s time to predict constraints before you move critical applications to the cloud. This is similar to how your GPS estimates your drive time, and plans to avoid traffic, when you set a destination.

 

Cloud applications often find their speed limited by congestion and latency, as workloads travel from various remote offices to Trusted Internet Connections and finally to the cloud. To accurately achieve desired performance goals, agencies need tools that enable them to easily predict performance constraints so prioritized investments can be made to avoid them.

Today’s modeling solutions help answer essential “what if” scenarios that arise with the implementation of cloud apps on complex hybrid networks, allowing IT leaders to reduce risk and quantify end-user experience before making significant investments.

Address critical constraints -- optimization

Once you know what you have, and where key constraints exist, it’s time to optimize. While poor app performance does not always devastate business velocity, it certainly degrades it.

To ensure that cloud applications are fast and efficient, agency IT leaders must build networks that go beyond simply connecting users to the cloud. Optimization solutions eliminate the limitations of distance, latency and bandwidth from the network -- and navigate the biggest speed bumps encountered by users of cloud apps.

Take, for example, Microsoft Office 365, a widely used cloud application. If this app does not perform fast for a global workforce, employees can’t efficiently do the work needed for the organization to support its mission – the network can impair business velocity and agility. To solve this challenge, agencies must research acceleration solutions that have the ability to provide visibility, optimization and control, and ensure that robust support exists for the network, application and security layers. Well-rounded optimization will save organizations not just bandwidth across the wide area network, but also speed up end user experience by reducing application turns.

By optimizing from the cloud all the way to the remote site, organizations can make cloud apps exponentially faster, while sending more than 80 percent less traffic over expensive wide area networks. Business velocity depends on end-user productivity, so ensuring that cloud apps are fast is central to accelerating your agency’s efficiency, and keeping employees happy.

On your mark, get set, go!

A recent report from GovLoop found that agencies are exploring a variety of emerging and increasingly complex workloads in the cloud. Not only is the cloud here to stay, it’s going to be putting significantly more pressure on agency networks.

With more and more applications moving through the cloud across hybrid network paths, visibility, optimization and control are more important than ever. Don’t drive your new Ferrari on a dirt road --make sure the environment is optimized so you maximize the business benefits of your cloud investment.

About the Author

Sean Applegate is Director of Federal Technology Strategy and Advanced Solutions at Riverbed Technology.

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Reader comments

Fri, Mar 20, 2015 Steve Inman Atlanta GA

Well said Sean. I would only add that the same considerations holds true for PaaS where developers and QA folks need a smooth road too.

Sun, Mar 8, 2015 Peter White UK

Any organisation considering moving an application into the cloud should perform pre-deployment best practice testing using a network emulator - think of it as a flight simulator for applications. A network emulator enables the user to set bandwidth, packet loss, latency, jitter and other network conditions so that an application can be tested inline as if it was already in the cloud. This means that the risks associated with moving apps to the cloud can be mitigated and costs reduced. Insight obtained during pre-deployment testing can also help with application optimization. A network emulation essentials guide can be found here: http://itrinegy.co.uk/images/itrinegy/downloads/Network-Emulation-Essentials.pdf

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