What is a cloud network?

sea of clouds during daytime

The future of the cloud is bright. By 2024, more than 45 percent of IT spending will have phased out traditional networks and replaced them with the cloud. What is driving these trends? In short: the modern cloud network.

What is a cloud network?
Cloud networks use the cloud (a centralized third-party resource provider) to connect network resources. Cloud networks act as gatekeepers for applications.

Mastering this concept means leveraging the cloud for infrastructure, network management, network monitoring, and maintenance. In other words, network resources can be designed, configured, managed, and fine-tuned in the cloud to create simple and resilient networks. These cloud-based network resources can include:

Virtual router
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Virtual firewall
Data connection
Load balancer
Virtual bridge
Virtual adapters and so on
With cloud networks, networks can support the cloud or be entirely cloud-based.

In a cloud-enabled network, the network is local, but some or all of the resources used to manage it are in the cloud. The core network infrastructure (packet forwarding, routing, and data) is still in-house, but things like network management, monitoring, maintenance, and security services are done through the cloud. For example, use saas-based firewalls to protect local networks.

In a cloud-based network, the entire network is in the cloud. This includes network management resources and physical hardware. Cloud-based networks are used to provide connectivity between applications and resources deployed in the cloud.

The history of the cloud
Much of the development in cloud computing and cloud networking dates back many years.

Back in the 1960s, the fusion of the concepts of providing services, virtualization, and enabling network access to services shaped the definition and purpose of the cloud.

These concepts not only pioneered the idea of how the cloud works, but also provided IT departments with a springboard to move beyond traditional network architectures and revolutionize the way they approach software and hardware purchases.

From 2005 to 2011, the use of public and private clouds began to gain attention, and the first generation of clouds emerged.

One of the main drivers behind the widespread use of public clouds is the launch of Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud (E2C), a Web-based service that allows users to rent virtual servers to run applications on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure. This has dramatically changed the way IT departments work.

Companies no longer need to invest in expensive on-site servers and can optimize network resources for strategic business continuity.

By 2012 to 2017, the foundation was laid for the second generation of clouds with the emergence of pay-on-demand computing infrastructure and services, DevOps, real-time streaming services, and hybrid clouds. Computing environments offer more choices, enabling data and applications to move easily between public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud.

Cloud networks and traditional networks
As the cloud continues to evolve, more and more network architects face a recurring question: Should I bring my company's computing to the cloud? Or continue to use traditional networks? There is no perfect answer to this question, and it depends on what users consider value added.

First, the traditional IT model is one of the most secure network models. They allow data owners to tightly control their information and how it is shared without relying on cloud servers. But this comes at a cost: buying different hardware and upgrading it regularly. Similarly, the user experience is often influenced by the traditional model. Users expect to have access to data and resources wherever and whenever they want.

Cloud networks, on the other hand, involve users who own much less hardware and software. Instead, network hardware and software resources are hosted in the cloud, allowing access to real-time functionality on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go basis. This reduces the possibility of redundant resources and gives the network architect a better advantage to customize specific requirements as different situations arise.

Cloud networks and cloud computing
So far, most of the definitions we've used about cloud networks are based on the location of the network infrastructure that powers the connections between resources. This is different from cloud computing, which is much broader than cloud networks and includes all the computing services needed to get applications running on service providers' data centers, rather than traditional ones.

While cloud networking and cloud computing concepts are often used interchangeably, there are some differences that need to be noted.

Cloud networks are about network resources and how they are managed, connected, and controlled in the cloud.

Cloud computing focuses on applications and services hosted in the cloud. These services can include storage, software, and databases.

Advantages of cloud networks
As cloud networks evolve, some of these advantages include:

Cost reduction: Companies can save on capital costs by not having to buy and maintain expensive servers and hardware resources.
Minimum downtime: The cloud provider handles all updates related to the cloud resources it provides. This means that the web team has one less operational problem to consider. In most cases, if downtime occurs, it is notified in advance to allow time to implement alternative solutions.
Scalability: With the cloud, IT teams can assess business needs and modify capacity as needed. In the cloud, this is usually a seamless process, but in the case of traditional networks it often leads to outages.
Productivity: With service providers responsible for cloud network maintenance, automatic updates, and testing, users spend significantly less time on administrative tasks.
Resilience: Uptime and consistent performance must be considered when planning the future of computer networks.
When a traditional network fails, it is not easy to recover. For example, server failures can mean long-term outages or even data loss. These costs add up to an average infrastructure failure cost of $100,000 per hour, while application failures range from $500,000 to $1 million per hour, depending on the size of the enterprise and network model.

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What is a cloud network?