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Evolution of Network Services for the Cloud

To fulfill their role in the adoption and monetization of cloud services, networks need to adapt to the cloud environment. The rise of cloud models is changing what is happening on the network:

  • Change in traffic patterns caused by increasing server-to-server traffic and the location-independent endpoints at both sides of a service.
  • The new infrastructure is highly virtualized and programmable; servers and applications have become increasingly mobile.
  • Change in access patterns for applications and services, predominantly through mobile devices.
  • New applications are more data intensive, collaborative, and media rich.

These changes are driving the rapid evolution of networks. But not everything about the network has to change. Its foremost purpose still remains the same. The network still has to provide transport for the movement of data between the various components of an application, its storage, and the end user. It still has to provide security for access to applications and data. And it is still responsible for delivering a certain level of application performance to the end user. What changes is how these jobs are to be performed (with automated provisioning and management, with support for virtualization and multitenancy, and with location independence).


Automation is one of the most important areas of evolution for networks. And APIs are a fundamental means of enabling automation. One of the biggest impacts of the cloud on networks is the sheer scale and the frequency of change. And APIs allow us to address both of them. When network and network services can be provisioned and managed with well-designed APIs, such as those exposed by the network hypervisors discussed earlier in this chapter, the cloud network can scale efficiently from one rack to a whole data center to collections of data centers. At the same time, frequent changes brought about to the network, as tenants allocate and de-allocate cloud services, can be handled without any human touch. The economics of the cloud make such zero-touch operations mandatory.

Virtualization Awareness and Multitenancy

A couple aspects of virtualization are relevant to the evolution of networks. First is the network’s awareness of server virtualization, which was introduced in Chapter 1, “Virtualization.” Such virtualization-aware networks can identify and treat each VM as a separate networking endpoint. In addition, such networks can attach security and other policy profiles to VMs in a sticky fashion. As VMs migrate from one physical host to another, or one data center to another, these profiles move along with them.

The other aspect relates to networks themselves: that is, network virtualization. Also discussed in Chapter 1, virtualization of networks and network services enables the end-to-end isolation required to allow multiple tenants to securely coexist on the same shared underlying infrastructure. Advanced network abstractions such as containers can build on top of this virtualization and provide the flexibility of carving up the infrastructure into network containers. Such containers, described earlier in this chapter, would be completely isolated from the network containers of other tenants, enabling multitenancy.

Location Independence

Networks today support user and device mobility in various ways. With the advent of cloud, network capabilities around mobility need to evolve further. The virtualization and resource pooling aspects of clouds means that servers and applications are no longer tied to physical infrastructure either. In fact, applications can be thought of as floating over a pool of infrastructure resources, seamlessly extended within and between clouds.

With the mobility of applications and data in addition to the users themselves, networks can no longer depend solely on their location to make policy decisions. These modern networks, shown in Figure 4-10, gather and rely on context information in this borderless world, ensuring that users can access only those applications and that data to which they are entitled. In addition, these networks strive to achieve a consistent level of user experience, irrespective of the location of the user, application, and data in the cloud.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4-10. Application/Data Mobility

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