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The Modern Secure
Network Blog

Industry Insights

Strategies for Navigating a Successful Cloud Migration

By Michael Wood
CMO, Versa Networks
October 26, 2020

A third (33%) of all organizations have failed to successfully implement their cloud strategies in 2019. Despite best efforts post-migration, network performance, security, and management problems continue to shoot up. As failed cloud migrations glaringly highlight the need to reinvent traditional WAN networks, organizations are increasingly turning to Secure SD-WAN for the help they need to successfully move to the cloud.

Who doesn’t want to move to the cloud today? It’s scalable, flexible, and cost-efficient—everything that traditional data centers are not. Besides, users have grown increasingly mobile, making the “anytime, anywhere, and any-device” access the new normal for business continuity. So, it’s only natural that organizations are increasingly investing in a cloud-first migration, instead of struggling with the ailing and outdated data center. Ironically, very few organizations are actually able to tap into the cloud advantages. Instead of growing the business, cloud migration has plunged organizations into a quicksand of everyday problems:

  • Applications are running slowly with high packet loss, jitter, and latency. Users are frustrated with the delayed access to business-critical applications, choppy audio calls, jittery and dropped video calls, and more.
  • Security gaps are increasing by the day, and the hardware-centric WAN architecture is a huge bottleneck in security enforcements because of their complexity
  • Cloud traffic management has turned into a nightmare for the IT teams who have to balance limited bandwidth capacity with a large number of users who are simultaneously trying to access their cloud applications from anywhere in the world
  • Capital expenses are shooting through the roof as the IT leaders are trying to meet the increased bandwidth demands

Why are most cloud migrations falling flat?

Moving the workloads to IaaS and aggressively adopting SaaS applications generate a torrential flow of new network traffic that spike bandwidth and increase application performance demands. Traditional WAN networks, unfortunately, are not designed to handle these new requirements.

The Top 3 Challenges for An Organizations’ Cloud Migration:
  1. Difficulty with Internet and MPLS Connections: Traditional WAN networks typically leverage MPLS as their primary mode of transport. Because MPLS comes with limited bandwidth capacity, backhauling cloud-destined traffic to the data center heavily congests the network, introducing packet loss, jitter, and latency. Although internet broadband can help accommodate the excess traffic, it does not offer the reliability and security of an MPLS line. Also, MPLS is expensive and comes with lengthy provisioning times and purchasing additional MPLS is not budget friendly. As a result, cloud applications run painfully slow, degrading the end-user experience and their productivity.
  2. Challenges with Configuring Consistent Security: Directly accessing public cloud platforms dramatically expands the threat surface because organizations no longer have control and visibility outside of their network. To secure information flow, the network operations team will need to understand the cloud environment’s functional complexities and meticulously implement the best security practices to address new cloud risks. Even in a traditional WAN network, security policies must be configured manually, box-by-box. With several point security devices to configure, the entire exercise consumes a significant amount of time, not to mention the high chances of configuration errors that cause gaps for serious breaches. Now that users are accessing critical business applications outside of the WAN network, configuring, monitoring, and implementing best security practices are even more complex.
  3. Gaps in Cloud and On-Premises Management: Cloud environments come with varying functional complexities. In the case of a multi-cloud or a hybrid-cloud deployment, orchestrating different cloud environments, connecting them to data centers, and interconnecting them all in an MPLS WAN network easily becomes a nightmare for network architects. The entire deployment and interconnecting process can take weeks or even months to complete. In a large, heterogeneous network, visibility is key to proactively preventing and containing security breaches and maintaining overall network health. Unfortunately, traditional WAN networks offer little visibility because of the complex topologies and dedicated point devices sourced from a plethora of vendors. Add on the complexity of multi-cloud, the lack of visibility makes troubleshooting the complex traffic patterns both on-premises and off-premises a huge challenge for the IT team.

To streamline and simplify cloud operations, as well as keep up with the changing cloud demands, organizations need to focus on modernizing their network infrastructure, and SD-WAN (or Software-Defined Networking) is the smart choice that can help pave the way for modern, resilient, and secure networks.

How to resolve cloud migration challenges:

  1. Adopt a New Architecture for Better Application Performance: To meet with the growing bandwidth demands of cloud applications, SD-WAN offers transport link flexibility that allows organizations to create a unified pool of multiple WAN connections. This unique architecture helps leverage passive transport links such as the cheaper internet broadband and 4G LTE links instead of relying on MPLS alone, thereby significantly increasing the overall bandwidth capacity. Another advantage of leveraging a SD-WAN architecture is the application-aware routing that automatically prioritizes traffic based on the business-intent policies and directs it across the most optimal transport route. In case of an unpredicted downtime, organizations leveraging SD-WAN automatically implement best fail-over strategies in seconds to get the business application back up and running. By decongesting the network and intelligently routing application traffic, an SD-WAN architecture radically improves the end-user experience and the overall network health.
  2. Ensure that Security is Embedded Into the Ground Design: To ensure all cloud-hosted workloads are protected, organizations need an approach that integrates full-stack security, including next-gen firewall, malware protection, sandboxing, intrusion prevention, and more, directly into their WAN architecture. With embedded security, organizations can instantly identify cloud application traffic and apply optimal security policies without needing to go to multiple management consoles. Also, embedded security offers single-pass consistency that eliminates the need to backhaul cloud traffic to the data center, and instead route it directly to the cloud destination. Not only does backhauling cloud traffic saves substantial MPLS bandwidth and increase security hygiene, it also reduces CapEx. Lastly, security segmentation in the form of multi-tenancy is necessary for different lines of business trying to prevent lateral movement between departments, groups, and locations. Multi-tenancy is a key component that empowers the security team with granular and layered control over the entire network, which is critical to confront today’s evolving threat landscape.
  3. Centralize Your Management and Administration Interfaces: Organizations need to take a centralized approach to network management. Monitoring multiple cloud environments, rolling out policy configurations, and troubleshooting issues should be done via a single-pane-of-glass interface, otherwise policies may not be properly executed throughout the organization. In addition, managing multiple administrative consoles is time-consuming, complex, and introduce security risks. When you have a single management interface that maintains consistent policies across the entire environment, you can also easily audit and ensure regulatory compliance. Always choose a solution that can easily integrate with your brownfield environment and thus, alleviate different multiple cloud complexities and orchestrate and interconnect workflows. By centralizing your management console, you greatly streamline and simplify the cloud deployment process for the IT team.

When a substantial amount of a companies’ IT budget dedicated to cloud services, getting the network infrastructure cloud-ready becomes a top priority. It is the only way to capitalize on the cloud investment, as well as achieve business resilience that is required to be successful in a post-COVID world. Adopting these strategies for your cloud migration initiative (or re-initiative) will help you achieve all the scalability, flexibility, performance, and reliability that is the promise of the cloud.