Most people see public cloud services as a good option for storing their personal photos, music, and other files—mostly because it’s affordable and easy to use.  While they recognize the associated risks, such as security and privacy, the convenience generally outweighs those risks.  It’s not perfect, but for sharing your photos or backing up your calendar, it’s good enough.  There are several public cloud options for businesses as well, but when I speak with many enterprise IT decision-makers, it’s clear to me that for critical business applications and data in the cloud, good enough isn’t good enough.

The best of both worlds?

In the public cloud model, storage space, computing power, and/or other resources are made available in shared, remote data centers by a third-party, offering numerous attractive features such as scalability, agility, and pay–as-you-go usage-based services.   However, the concerns around issues like security, privacy, and performance have driven many to build so-called ‘private clouds.’ Companies are treating their own data centers in the same manner, providing virtualized and distributed services to company employees.  While this allows businesses to maintain control of security, which some do better than others, they are inherently limited in terms of scalability, flexibility, and cost effectiveness. Both models offer merits, but can you imagine how much more powerful it could be if one could combine the security, control, and performance of a private cloud with the scalability and flexibility of a public cloud?  A network-enabled cloud solution can help businesses get the best of both worlds.

What is a network-enabled cloud?

Network-enabled cloud solutions use networking technology to seamlessly and securely link your enterprise network (e.g. virtual private network, or VPN) to specific public cloud resources and potentially even across multiple public clouds of different types (e.g. Infrastructure as a Service; Software as a Service). In effect, the cloud resources appear as just another endpoint on the corporate network.  Using AT&T NetBond, we have network-enabled our own AT&T cloud compute service.

So what’s the big deal about that?

It’s quick and simple.

Because the cloud resources are already enabled on the corporate network, they can be called upon quickly. You don’t need to buy or set up additional equipment or network connections, nor are there incremental costs to move workloads. The user can quickly access and expand public cloud resources as part of the private network.

It’s flexible.

All the business’ office locations can directly access the cloud resources as the network-enabled cloud allows ‘any-to-any’ site access. This avoids “hair pinning” traffic through a central location or data center – which causes bottlenecks and affects performance and availability.  Furthermore, with class of service controls enabled across the network, workloads can be prioritized to tune performance to application needs.  The network can dynamically scale in harmony with the cloud resources, providing the same flexibility in the network that we’ve come to expect from the cloud.

It’s secure.

By running the corporate network all the way to the public cloud resources, companies avoid the public Internet altogether, and reduce associated risks such as DDOS attacks. Additionally, common security policies can be used across the network, giving employees secure access to the cloud resources from almost any authenticated device

So as we’ve seen, network-enabled cloud solutions combine the control, protection and performance advantages of a private cloud with the economies and flexibility of a public cloud, while using a company’s existing network. This ultimately makes it quicker  and easier to create a highly secure environment for cloud-based enterprise applications and data – which is what most businesses tell me they want.  Or as I like to say, what most enterprises need when “good enough isn’t good enough.”

For more discussion on getting the best of both cloud worlds, check out the recent webinar in which our featured speaker, Frank Gens, Senior Vice President & Chief Analyst at IDC, highlights the growing need for enterprise-grade public cloud and how the right connectivity overcomes cloud concerns: “Enterprise-Grade Public Cloud: Have the Best of Both Worlds.”

Is your enterprise cloud solution good enough?  What aspects of the cloud are attractive for your business, and what aspects still make you wary?