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Network Management for Cloud Servers and Software


Network management increases in complexity as you begin to add on cloud servers and software. IT teams can manage by taking steps to map networks, using software-defined networking, and carefully managing hardware including cabling. Implementing automation, working with highly reliable vendors, and choosing cloud solutions that meet specific in-house needs will also help.

While cloud and multi-cloud environments are increasingly complex, organizations have more tools at their disposal and more means of managing and getting more from those networks than ever before.

Map Cloud Network Topology

It’s crucial to create a physical diagram outlining the topology for both physical network and cloud network. This topology should include room for growth, should depict hardware, and should outline physical distribution switches, cabling, and access points.

Your topology chart should also include processes to update the diagram as changes occur. Importantly, it’s not always possible to maintain a single, easily updatable network topology. Many organizations benefit from creating a broader topology incorporating everything and a more defined topology mapping items that might have to be changed or updated frequently.

Optimize Topology

Once you know what network topology looks like, it’s easier to optimize it. Here, solutions like leaf-spine architecture and leaf switches are commonly used to manage multi-directional data (to and from cloud servers), by consolidating user traffic before passing core storage systems and servers, essentially reducing bottlenecks. This architecture simplifies the network from three tiers to two, but increases the number of core connections.

You may also want to switch to software-defined networks, or SDN, although leaf-spine architecture may be a first step for this. Here, you essentially integrate double APIs, one to drive and organize internal networks, and one to manage long-distance operation for cloud users.

Software-defined networks implement infrastructure management and automation to scale network activities such as task delegation and network load based on resources and demand, allowing IT teams to better-regulate changing demand across cloud apps and servers.

Consider Cabling

Cabling is a hardware element, but it can dramatically affect the quality and speed of cloud servers. Fiber-optics are an increasingly popular solution but may be too expensive or may not meet your needs.

In this case, the best option is likely to discuss total needs and budget with your supplier to reach a happy middle ground.

However, you should always prioritize some areas such as specific hosts and servers that need high priority access. Here, your switches will play a large role in quality. If you’re using SFP+ format cables, your switches have to support it, or you won’t see 10GB+ data transfer capability.

Automation

Your network should implement automation to automatically move data, adjust server load, and manage users. While exact automation implementation should vary significantly depending on your organization and your cloud network needs, automating low-level maintenance and monitoring tasks should be a standard.

Implement User Management

Understanding how, where, when, and why users access networks and apps will help you to optimize your architecture around those needs. User management also allows IT to throttle non-priority hosts during peak periods, to prioritize specific hosts, and to allocate bandwidth based on expected needs. This ensures no host can incapacitate a network.

Application Monitoring

More and more applications are moving to the cloud, which might necessitate significant monitoring on your part.

Consider an agent-based approach, using automation to collect and store stack-level application data to keep track of how, when, where, and why the application is used, where the load is spread across the server, and how applications perform from an end-user perspective.

This data can then be used to troubleshoot and recognize problems before users notice, effectively increasing total network quality.

Shift Data Center Management to a Cloud Policy

It’s important that your entire IT team shift policies to cloud management. While you will likely retain physical data centers and networks, especially for legacy hardware and applications, everything needs to be on the same page. Your data center management should be designed for virtual rather than physical environments, with some implementation for physical environments and room to phase those to virtual over time.

Choose Vendors Carefully

Your cloud network is a crucial part of your organization, especially as more and more tooling shifts to cloud applications. Choose a vendor you can rely on as a partner, rather than simply an installer. This means selecting a vendor who can offer IT services, who can manage and service their network, and possibly whom you can simply outsource cloud network management to.

While you’ll always need internal IT support as a liaison and to ensure you can switch vendors, a third-party will be much-more capable of investing in new technology, better solutions, and better processes for teams because they manage cloud infrastructure as a core business service. This can improve the quality of your total network and its management.

It’s also a good idea to attempt to source as many cloud services from the same vendor as possible. Sourcing from multiple vendors will always add complexity and cost, which will be detrimental in the long run. If one vendor can provide everything, it’s likely significantly more cost-effective to do so than to maintain multiple contracts with other vendors. However, you should cost-evaluate and ensure your network is continuing to provide value, even after the initial period of service.

Most organizations are increasingly implementing cloud networks and applications. Navigating change to manage those networks is crucial to seeing value, retaining safety, and avoiding issues relating to bottlenecks, speed, and user access.

While the most efficient solution is typically to outsource network setup and long-term management, you may also want to handle everything in-house, which entails creating a new topography, automating maintenance, and designing hardware and systems around managing and directing load, especially during peak usage.

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