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Networking for your Right Mix: Architecting a communications fabric for hybrid cloud

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Finding your right mix of cloud – the optimal combination of on- and off-premises infrastructure for your business – is foundational to your hybrid IT strategy. And the right communications architecture is at the heart of implementing that strategy.

On Tuesday, March 19th, HPE announced HPE Right Mix Advisor, a simplified, accelerated way to find and maintain your optimal mix (see Erik Vogel’s post Your Best Hybrid Cloud Now: Find It Fast with HPE Right Mix Advisor). Once you’ve completed that assessment and built your end-to-end plan, it’s time to think about right mix networking. You will likely be running applications at a variety of locations: some in the public cloud, others in the data center, and yet others in private data centers at the Edge, for example. In fact, some applications may actually have their functionality split up among different places in your environment.

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To ensure that your applications continue to work together seamlessly, you’ll want to develop and implement an effective network architecture. This right mix network allows the applications, or functions within the applications in some cases, to communicate securely and reliably with each other.

6 principles of networking for the right mix

We’ve identified six key principles to keep in mind when building a communications architecture for a hybrid cloud strategy:

  1. Focus on the requirements, not the limitations. Don’t construct your hybrid cloud strategy based on the limitations of what your network can do. Instead, built it to truly reflect the needs of your applications and your business goals. The communications architecture should follow from that.
  2. Remember that the right mix is not static. Applications and business needs evolve. Build the communications architecture in a modular manner so that it can adapt quickly as the right mix changes, without the need to do forklifts. Consider leveraging Agile and DevOps models to support the evolution of the architecture.
  3. Mindfully mitigate risk. Comprehensive risk management is a key consideration as you roll out your right mix strategy across diverse sets of people, processes, technologies and environments. Leverage the network to instantiate security from day one.
  4. Weigh upgrades carefully. If your current communications technologies can’t meet the needs that the right mix has stipulated, consider how you might evolve your systems in a stepwise fashion, based on the principles you have defined that will enable your right mix strategy.
  5. Consider a multi-vendor approach. Right mix initiatives will often push the boundaries of what’s possible. A strategy based on open standards will enable you to tap into best-of-breed technologies from a variety of vendors for multiple network areas.
  6. Leverage software-defined networking. Hybrid cloud can create complex network environments. Visibility, orchestration and simplicity should be core criteria as you design and develop your network architecture. Software-defined networking can provide the level of granularity and manageability you need, as well as the flexibility to evolve the network alongside your right mix approach.

Multi-clouds and antibodies: Defining security for the Right Mix

Your right mix strategy will likely require a multi-cloud platform strategy for both virtual machines and containers. As we mentioned earlier, building in security from the beginning is critical. This is the perfect time to create a unified security approach to application enablement with consistent control and visibility across all cloud platforms.

The right mix approach up-levels the conversation about placing workloads at different locations to help you meet business requirements more effectively. Similarly, the risk management conversation also needs to evolve to the business layer. Instead of seeing security simply as protection for the functionality of the technology components residing in various parts of the environment, the focus shifts to protecting the business outcome.

That calls for a risk management approach that’s broad and scalable across all of the people, process and technology mixes that the business outcome depends on. For example, applications hosted in a public cloud generate a different risk profile than applications hosted in an isolated private cloud environment – the people, processes and technologies are very different.

 A network can provide the perfect medium for carrying the “antibodies” that enable such an approach. While it might be a bit of a stretch, in most cases, to say that the network can provide a complete security solution for a right mix environment, it certainly plays a key role.

 Dynamic by design

Nothing in IT stays still for long. Business objectives shift, application behaviours change, host environments become less favourable or more so. The network must keep pace as your right mix evolves. Some moves may be relatively simple, a case of increasing the feeds and speeds. Others will be more complex, as for example when traffic needs to be segregated, or you want to apply multiple quality-of-service (QOS) measures to keep the cost envelope under control. It is critical that the network architecture is able to easily, and where possible dynamically, evolve to meet these evolving requirements.

Several of the design principles outlined above play a key role in ensuring a successful network deployment in such a dynamic environment. These include leveraging a modular design methodology; using software-defined networking; building network automation into the orchestration; and implementing an open and automated security framework into the architecture.  

In summary, a well thought-through communications fabric is pivotal to the effective implementation of a right mix strategy. A properly designed network not only allows the freedom at the business level to position applications and their components where they best meet the business requirements, but can also enhance the effectiveness of the applications by participating in how they function through network analytics and risk management.

HPE can help you design and implement a network that delivers all the speed and adaptability that hybrid cloud requires. We can help you position your applications and their components where they best meet your business requirements, while enhancing their effectiveness through our network analytics tools and risk management expertise.

Learn more about how HPE networking can help you empower your workforce and fuel business insights and how HPE Pointnext can help you start on your Digital Transformation journey.

About the authors:

Jeff Enters and Saadat Malik

Jeff Enters is the Global Chief Architect for Networking Services at HPE. Jeff provides technical leadership to HPE and its customers around how to design and implement communications fabrics that meet customers’ business requirements today and evolve effectively to their future needs.

Saadat Malik is HPE’s Vice President for IoT and Intelligent Edge Services. He leads an organization focused on developing solutions and services for customers in the areas of Networking, Workplace and the Digital Edge.

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