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What is CLOUD doing to our networks?

By Sam Schoelen,Chief InformationTechnology Officer, Continental Resources

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Sam Schoelen,Chief InformationTechnology Officer, Continental Resources

Do you remember upgrading to a 56K modem?  Do you recall how fast that seemed at the time?  If you were like me I was going from a 14.4K up to a 56K then you may remember that.  Oh yes, and I was hosting a BBS on it as well.

"We have grown into an environment where all the resources a company needs are in a data center and you of course have to be able to get to that datacenter"
 
Do you recollect fighting for the phone line to get online and being kicked off when someone picked up the phone?  Then you probably did what I did and ended up with a separate phone line for your modem.

Well, that was only a mere 20 years ago and it really isn’t as long as it may seem.  

Fast forward 10 years from that first 56K modem and I was all-of-a-sudden that corporate IT watchdog for companies ensuring people were not “crashing the internet” by downloading or streaming “non-essential” information from the internet.  The bandwidths were so limited back then that even one person streaming music would cripple the internet, making it virtually unusable for all others.  I remember paying Internet providers over $20,000 a month for just a few measly Megs of bandwidth, which never seemed to be enough.

So, fast-forward to present time; here I am streaming music while I write this article without a care in the world about my bandwidth usage.  I have sales offices with a handful of people that have a 100M fiber pipe to the internet for a fraction of the price.  I even have fiber running directly to my home, how amazing is that?  How far we have come! But of course there are many factors to consider as to why this is possible.  Compression, new protocols, new applications, etc,  We all see bandwidth increasing and prices dropping, if you have dealt with telecommunication providers over any significant amount of time you have seen this trend continually.

So what does this mean and where do we go from here?

As a follow up to my last article about “Cloud  What is the End Game” and what tech-savvy people are doing, we thus have to consider the world of networking as well.  When I started my career as a network engineer many years ago, I was trained on all things that were considered networking.  I learned how complex enterprise networking can be, between the routing, switching, security and all the inter-connectivity it can be a very intense topic.   

So, where am I going with this?  Well, if you think about this path to the cloud, whether it be IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS you must also take into consideration the implications on all the layers of technologies.  The first being the most obvious, you need more internet bandwidth. Without bandwidth you cannot reach your resources and effectively use them.  Of course even without cloud, this is not a problem, as most companies these days have amble internet links and even if they do not, they are extremely affordable.

Now let’s contemplate the complexity of the network.  We have grown into an environment where all the resources a company needs are in a data center and you of course have to be able to get to that datacenter.   As more resources migrate to the cloud we have less need to be connected in this archaic manner.  Now with one vast pipe connecting us to the internet, we can get anywhere we need to be with just a click of a mouse.  With today’s technology our email, ERP, Files and even phones can be cloud based.  If you are 100 percent  cloud-based, why do you need a super complex network?  This can and will, over time, greatly simplify and significantly impact the cost of the corporate networks.

Reliability; there was a time we would say that the internet is unstable.  And yes, to a certain extent it may well have been.  It is surprising how often the internet lines go down as opposed to years past because they are just built better and more redundant than the past.   These days there is a growing trend to connect remote offices via encrypted internet links rather than point-to-point lines, it is less expensive and more reliable.  For Example; if I can acquire two internet connections in a remote office for a fraction of the price of one point-to-point line, then I can cost effectively save money and increase reliability and bandwidth and no longer burden myself with the lines failing over or going down.

For some I am very well stating the obvious, but for others this is just one more technical transformation to contemplate.  Networking as an industry is changing, we are already seeing it in software defined networking as well as the underlying protocols themselves as defined in the article,   Upgrade to Core Internet Protocol can Boost Speeds 30 Percent.   

Direct cloud connections are starting to become a commodity that consumers are shopping around. People can now get a link directly into a cloud provider and eliminating the risk factors of the past.  I have seen more providers working this angle recently, although I am not quite sure how successful this sales tactic may be.

My hope is, after reading this article, I can generated some thought on the future of networking and how staying relevant may happen at the network level.  Food for thought, remember how each company use to have that “phone guy”?  Just wondering, where is he now? I am certain that if we have made it this far in 20 years, we can only speculate what next 20 years will hold in store for us, hopefully taking us places we could only even dream about.  I believe there will be a new medium or basis for transporting packets moving into the future to accommodate these needs for increased speeds, we shall see.

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