To meet new needs in today's challenging IT and telecommunications services marketplace, enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) alike are turning to cloud-based computing. The underlying new operational model promises to improve the agility, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of IT. This market is soaring as service providers step in to support customers' migration to virtualized, cloud-based environments. According to Forrester Research, the market for managed data center services will grow to $116.5 billion worldwide by 2014. Computing services (Infrastructure as-a-Service and Software as-a-Service) are expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of more than 15 percent1.
Enterprises and their service providers also face new challenges, however, as they seek to deliver applications from the cloud to remote sites. To reap the benefits of cloud computing, organizations need end-to-end visibility into application performance, as well as an ability to manage application performance. Cisco® Application Performance Management (APM) technologies enable service providers and their customers to take advantage of the inherent intelligence and power of the network, providing the visibility, optimization, and control to meet these new challenges and unlock the full potential of cloud computing.
Escalating Customer Demands
As enterprises become more geographically dispersed, their core business applications are growing more complex. Remote manufacturing, distributed employee sites and branch offices, larger numbers of mobile and home workers, and an increasing mix of application suites make it challenging to derive maximum value from business applications. As they strive to address customer needs, service providers must offer application-aware services in the form of higher-value technology stacks (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Progression to Increasing Application Awareness and Intelligence
Source: Cisco Managed and Hosted Business Services, 2009.
Improving Availability, Performance, and Security in the Cloud
Up to now, application performance and availability concerns have slowed adoption of cloud-based models. Accessing applications remotely introduces concerns around latency, bandwidth constraints, and service downtime. To meet customer demands, service providers must provide support for application-level Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) such as application response time and full-feature availability.
Although cloud-based services offer tremendous potential, customers have concerns about the model, because they require robust security for their internal network and IT assets, as well as external assets such as the public data center and WAN. Since security architectures are cross-functional and require in-depth and up-to-date specialist knowledge, safeguarding business resources can be challenging, especially for smaller enterprises that cannot afford the skill set and tools required for strong security.
In a difficult economic environment, customers are also seeking to control costs. An intelligent, application-aware network enables lower-cost application delivery using a converged infrastructure and IT technology architecture. It lets enterprises redesign their business processes without the constraint of SLA challenges and WAN performance. Using an intelligent, application-aware network architecture, they can enhance application response times across the entire organization, from branch offices to mobile users and home workers.
Cisco APM can help businesses enable an intelligent, application-aware network to address concerns about performance, availability, and security of cloud-based services. It provides the visibility organizations need to discover applications running on the network, measure performance, and better understand network usage. And it lets organizations optimize the WAN to improve application performance, while giving them the control they need to safeguard and prioritize critical applications.
Service Providers Delivering Cloud-Based Applications
Traditionally, many service provider network and IT infrastructures were deployed as fragmented point solutions using silos of dedicated infrastructure. As businesses increasingly adopt cloud-based services such as compute on demand, bandwidth on demand, or storage on demand, however, these "stovepiped" deployments are shifting to employment of shared resources. As enterprises move applications, computing, storage, and network resources to the cloud, service delivery across locations and to remote users in branch offices might require more WAN hops, with resulting performance effects. A recent report from IDC states that 60 percent of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are accessed from the SaaS hosting center, then backhauled through corporate data center branch offices (see Figure 2)2. On the one hand, this approach can give enterprises more control over application and service delivery, utilizing Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to support secure access. On the other hand, enterprise organizations sacrifice the ability to exercise direct control over all network links3.
Figure 2. Challenges of Providing Cloud-Based Services
Source: IDC Research, 2008, Cisco Application Delivery Business Unit
In short, delivery of applications from the cloud creates challenges in:
• Provisioning: On-demand provisioning across network and IT and end-to-end SLA assurance
• Security: Segregated and end-to-end application security for optimized traffic
• Performance: Application response times for branch office, mobile, and remote usage
While this represents a technical issue for service providers, it is also a significant business opportunity. With the right technology solution built on application-aware technology, service providers can use their customer presence and network and service capabilities to address the growing market for cloud services.
Targeting the Market
Application-aware technology stacks will be more sophisticated in mature markets. Modular, scalable solutions, however, will thrive in emerging markets, too. Adoption of intelligent, application-aware networks will vary by market maturity, region, and complexity.
Where are the sweet spots for application-aware solutions? A number of applications are hosted and delivered from cloud environments. However, not all of them benefit equally from increased application awareness. As shown in Table 1, in situations where enterprises can experience benefits from a greenfield deployment or where the technology architecture has the nature of a utility, application-aware solutions will gain market share quickly. Examples of this are support systems, such as email, video, and communications, and enabling functions, such as desktop hosting of "utility desktops."
Today, strategy and buying decisions for IT and network tools in the enterprise are often made separately, resulting from the siloed nature of infrastructure deployment and the supporting IT organization. An intelligent, application-aware network environment, however, requires a more comprehensive, integrated deployment strategy. Table 1 shows selected cloud computing opportunities and how highlighted opportunities benefit from application awareness4.
Table 1. Application Opportunities That Benefit from Cloud Computing
Factors in Infrastructure as a Service Adoption
Global Opportunity Size (2013)
Application Development and Testing
• Short-term, unplanned resource requests from developers
• Requirements on testing environments are very volatile
Decision Support Systems
• Seasonal variations and short-term projects
• Large data sets (TBs) are expensive to manage
• DR equipment is idle and under provisioned
• Data volumes on file systems, wikis, and so on are affected by end users: unpredictable
• Seasonal resource demand of financial packages
• Sunk cost of customizing financial applications
• Initial server investment reduces ROI of VDI projects
• Variable utilization: temp projects and day-night fluctuations
• Huge, short-term requirements: "thousands of servers for a couple of hours"
• Noncore business for most enterprises
Source: Cisco IBSG Service Provider Practice, 2009, "Cloud Computing: Research About Enterprise Demand."
SMBs, with limited IT staff, might be more open to reworking their business architectures and generally have the business agility needed for change. In contrast, migrating to an intelligent, application-aware network might be more difficult for enterprise organizations with significant legacy equipment.
Cisco APM Enables Enterprise Adoption of Cloud Services
The Cisco APM service can dramatically accelerate adoption of cloud-based services by giving service providers the application visibility, optimization, and control they need to support today's complex customer needs. This architectural approach is based on existing technology that incorporates the service integration capabilities of Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISRs). Designed for complex, application-intensive environments, Cisco APM includes the Cisco Wide Area Application Service (WAAS), together with application performance management capabilities from best-in-class providers such as CA NetQoS, InfoVista, and Fluke Networks.
Cisco APM enables service providers to support enterprise business objectives by offering end-to-end visibility of the network and applications - extending to virtual Ethernet connections used by virtual machines running on physical servers. This enhanced visibility enables fast, effective service provisioning; optimized orchestration of application, network, IT, and storage resources; and enhanced security over the WAN. Cisco WAAS provides innovative solutions for the acceleration and optimization of private and public cloud-based application delivery, including SaaS applications, while improving availability and security. Cisco APM also supports application control through advanced, transaction-based Quality of Service (QoS) and dynamic bandwidth allocation. Cisco APM services enable service providers to offer the services and features their customers value most (see Figure 3). And it allows them to deliver a wide range of cloud-based services, discussed in the following examples. New research from Cisco IBSG reveals that today's enterprise... customers place tremendous value on end-to-end SLAs for their network-based applications5.
Figure 3. Differentiation Opportunities for Service Providers Offering Cloud-Based Services
Source: Cisco IBSG Service Provider Practice, 2009, "Cloud Computing: Research About Enterprise Demand."
Scaling and Securing Public Cloud SaaS Applications
SaaS applications are especially attractive to businesses that need to control costs, because the organization does not have to own the application and the supporting infrastructure.
For example, Cisco WebEx® conferencing, a leading SaaS application, enables secure web conferencing, application sharing, and other rich collaboration services. While this public cloud-based service offers flexible, on-demand provisioning and anywhere access, it can also affect application performance and WAN utilization for remote branch offices. Like many SaaS applications, Cisco WebEx conferencing creates individual network data streams for user sessions, which can increase bandwidth use and limit availability.
The insertion of an on-premises Cisco WebEx node for MCS can help keep local WebEx traffic local, while Cisco APM provides end-to-end visibility to enable providers to optimize performance and control of WebEx traffic to the cloud. Cisco WAAS removes the redundancy in connection streams, reducing both WAN bandwidth consumption by up to 80 percent6 and the need for costly network upgrades. To safeguard sensitive business data, Cisco WAAS also maintains Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security while optimizing SaaS data flows.
Boosting Performance of Collaboration Applications
Collaboration tools are ideal for sharing files from productivity applications such as Microsoft Word. Since users often upload or download the same files across the WAN, however, these applications can affect network performance.
For instance, Microsoft SharePoint uses Portal Server workspace sites to store user documents and files. The collaborative nature of Microsoft SharePoint creates redundant data that traverses the WAN, slowing response times, reducing productivity, and increasing bandwidth use. For hosted Microsoft SharePoint architectures, Cisco WAAS, together with real-time performance monitoring by Cisco APM, can provide WAN data compression exceeding 80 percent, with application response time improving by a factor of three. By reducing the need for a WAN upgrade, Cisco APM reduces total cost of ownership and helps enterprises to enhance collaboration and productivity.
Accelerating Applications from the Private Cloud
Private cloud services let IT departments consolidate and virtualize distributed resources to scale their infrastructure, reduce management overhead, and speed deployment. These services, however, can also strain IT resources, and WAN latency can hamper performance for branch-office users. Cisco APM offers the visibility and WAN optimization TCP applications require to help organizations save money, scale services better, and boost employee productivity.
For example, Cisco WAAS enhances delivery of VMware View from private clouds, improving performance by 70 percent and increasing the number of concurrent clients supported by two to four times. The solution also reduces WAN bandwidth requirements by 60 to 70 percent and trims bandwidth use by more than 90 percent.
The visibility and intelligence provided by Cisco APM could also be used to support more advanced cloud applications, such as a cloud VPN. An organization could utilize a network positioning system to locate resources in the network and determine the best path and location to access those resources. A cloud VPN would then establish secure, quality-assured VPN connections to these resources factoring in the best path, quality requirements, and security needs.
Optimizing Disaster Recovery
As enterprise organizations move server farms and data centers to private cloud architectures, maintaining robust business continuity and disaster recovery strategies is critical. Cisco APM provides the end-to-end application performance monitoring and measurement to identify and mitigate issues before they affect the business. Using data compression, Cisco WAAS helps optimize data replication to further minimize the effects of network outages
This applies in particular to enterprises that maintain more than one data center to provide high availability and to protect against data center outages, using center replication and backup applications such as EMC SRDF/A and NetApp SnapMirror to mirror data. Cisco WAAS has been tested and shown to accelerate and optimize the performance of EMC SRDF/A and NetApp SnapMirror applications, creating an up to tenfold improvement in WAN throughput performance7
Securing Data Delivered from the Cloud
As enterprises deliver services and applications from the cloud across WAN links not directly under their control, end-to-end security is more critical than ever. For cloud providers, HTTPS is becoming the transport protocol of choice, given industry wide adoption of the SSL standard for web applications.
Cisco WAAS extends this SSL protection to the branch office, while optimizing performance of SaaS and other cloud-based applications. Cisco WAAS also provides disk encryption features on the branch-office device to protect data at rest. When combined with the deep visibility provided by Cisco APM, the result is high performance for cloud-delivered applications, without compromising the security of sensitive business data and communications.
Conclusion: A Compelling Opportunity for Providers and Customers
Cloud offers resources and services that are abstracted from the underlying infrastructure and provided "on demand" and "at scale" in a multitenant environment. Cloud services promise to reduce the complexity of IT, with associated gains in the agility, flexibility, and responsiveness of the delivered service. Delivery of applications from the cloud to the branch-office user, however, can create challenges in areas such as provisioning, security, and performance.
Cisco APM accelerates the adoption of cloud-based services, providing the application visibility, WAN optimization, and application control needed for successful private and public cloud-based application delivery. With end-to-end performance management, APM helps organizations - and the providers that serve them - take advantage of the full potential of cloud services.
By adopting a forward-looking, intelligent, application-aware network solution that includes Cisco APM, service providers can better position themselves to compete for enterprise and SMB IT services business.