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How to optimize network bandwidth for the cloud

Cloud elasticity means little if your network can't handle the workload. Enterprise IT must understand users and traffic to ensure cloud apps deliver.

What advice do you have to optimize network bandwidth for the cloud?

One of the great strengths of cloud is its elasticity of computing and storage resources, but WAN bandwidth remains one of the least elastic components of the infrastructure. This is why planning and deploying an application in the cloud requires great attention.

In either a hybrid cloud or a public cloud deployment, it's essential to clearly understand an application's performance requirements and usage patterns to plan for network bandwidth capacity and to identify potential bottlenecks. Taking protocol snapshots of traffic and monitoring usage before deploying an application are essential to understand its client-server model. Monitoring network traffic and network connection endpoints, such as firewalls and load balancers, after deploying a cloud-based app is essential to ensure that the configuration can keep up with demands.

User concentration is an important determinant of how to approach network capacity planning and bandwidth optimization. With a concentration of user traffic such as a call center building -- where end users all access the same Software as a Service application or the network segment connecting a public and private cloud -- it's important for cloud admins to investigate shaping and optimizing WAN traffic.

WAN bandwidth optimization devices such as Riverbed's Steelhead tool can be used to deduplicate, compress and cache traffic across network paths. Determine if any applications are time-sensitive and will require elevated Quality of Service as part of your traffic-shaping efforts.

For distributed user communities such as global e-commerce sites in a public cloud, the best approach is to ensure software-defined network components, such as firewalls and load balancers, that can scale up and down to handle traffic bursts.

About the author
With a background in managing one of the largest global financial networks, Mark Szynaka brings his network monitoring, security and ITIL best practices to the cloud. He helps enterprise IT investigate and implement cloud computing architectures -- public, private and hybrid -- using Amazon Web Services, Terremark/Verizon and Rackspace technologies.

This was last published in March 2013

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