Creating AT&T NetBond5 14I’ve often spoken about the importance of a network-enabled cloud for business applications.  If the recent rash of hacker incidents and security vulnerabilities hasn’t convinced you, perhaps you’ve noticed that virtually all major carriers have recently announced private connections to various cloud service providers.

When we first introduced AT&T Netbond in early 2013, some questioned why we’d offer our “secret sauce” to enable other cloud service providers to connect directly to our network.  We realized back then that “good enough” wasn’t going to be good enough when it came to enterprise networking or enterprise class cloud [see previous blog], and that hybrid cloud would ultimately emerge into the predominant model for most businesses.  It appears others have also come to that realization now as well.

Private cloud offerings – More than meets the eye

It is not surprising to me that private cloud connectivity is in vogue. While the privacy it provides is a no-brainer, clearly one can also make a strong case for adding controls like COS if the carrier offers MPLS, as well as the integration enabling most enterprise networks. However, I’d caution that not all private cloud connectivity is created equally.

While it’s relatively straight forward to deliver a private direct connection” to a cloud data center, this can still leave a lot to be desired in terms of the functionality enabled, as well as cost. In the simplest case, a dedicated private line offers great security but is essentially a dumb pipe to a cloud, offering no controls to manage workloads.

Performance and cost factors

Perhaps most importantly, the dedicated line is a single connection typically set up physically through a single connection point (often an enterprise data center). As a result, all traffic to and from the connected cloud “hairpins” through this point. This approach can compromise performance significantly depending upon the user’s proximity to this connection.  Additionally, it would take, a redundant connection to each and every cloud you want to connect with, greatly increasing complexity and certainly driving costs in the wrong direction.  Multiply this by clouds across geographies for latency management — and different cloud providers for functionality — and it quickly becomes cost prohibitive.

Enter private MPLS cloud connections, which offset some of these problematic issues.  For example, COS may be offered to manage workloads, and if interconnected with an enterprise network, additional site level access may be enabled more elegantly. However, even in this model, the MPLS connection is typically a static pipe and lacks redundancy.

Multiple cloud integration adds scalability and flexibility

With AT&T NetBond we took things further through a software-defined architecture for integrating multiple clouds with our MPLS network.  By exposing the network control plane to cloud providers through open APIs, we enabled true orchestration of the cloud with and across the network resources. The network isn’t just a connection to the cloud it’s a seamless part of the cloud.  A major difference is that once “on net,” essentially all interconnected clouds are on net also. That means they can be accessed in near-real-time, just as if they were part of the enterprise virtual private network.

Additionally, AT&T NetBond builds in redundancy to each and every cloud service, eliminating the customer need to purchase multiple access legs to cloud service providers.  And possibly most critical of all, the network bandwidth scales as dynamically as the cloud it connects to. After all, what good is a scalable cloud if there is a bottleneck in the connection to it that needs to be physically upgraded as usage grows? We think of AT&T NetBond as “application aware,” lessening the user’s need to be more network aware.

So, while the movement to greater private cloud connectivity is a positive and predictable trend, it’s important to remember that there are many different approaches — from the simplistic to the software-defined.  I believe the AT&T NetBond solution remains the most enterprise cloud-ready in the industry.

What’s your view?  Is private cloud connectivity important, and how does AT&T NetBond stack up?