Achieving greater SaaS performance and security with hybrid networking

Mr. Bala Mahadevan   New Delhi     Last Updated: July 31, 2017  | 16:12 IST
Achieving greater SaaS performance and security with hybrid networking

Cloud services have been considered the future of business and cloud adoption shows no signs of slowing down. Enterprises continue to demonstrate a growing appetite for on-demand technology that is essential to their digital transformation initiatives. Gartner predicts that the worldwide market for public cloud services will hit $246.8 billion in 2017.

Gartner also noted that India's software market is likely to witness a growth of 12.8% to reach $5.8 billion in 2017. World class solutions are being delivered and India's start-ups are to be credited for that. Together, they are establishing India as a prominent player in the global scene as far as the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry is concerned. They have done so by establishing the mix of a global consumer base with mobile-first users. According to a research report by Nasscom in July 2016, the SaaS market in India is expected to triple to about $1 billion by 2020 from $407 million in 2016.
Companies have embraced the SaaS model as it provides them greater flexibility and scalability. At the same time, it minimizes their spending on data centers and software. While the benefits of SaaS are undeniable, the cloud also presents a new set of security and performance challenges.

Unlike a home setting where consumers can directly access cloud applications seamlessly and easily via their broadband internet connection, the situation with enterprises is far more complex. SaaS solutions such as Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, et cetera store customer data in a data center closest to where the IT team has registered for the service. This poses a problem for those working on the other side of the world.

The internet in our country cannot be relied on to deliver cloud application performance because we still do not have such infrastructures which would make cloud easily accessible. Furthermore, cloud data security over public links is also a major worldwide concern.

Lack of visibility and control

IT departments face significant visibility and control challenges in improving application performance. Many are unable to see the end-to-end SaaS workflows from the data center, across the network and to the end-users in their global branch offices. Without full network visibility, IT teams are unable to identify the causes for delays or interruptions, and take necessary action. Increasing adoption of shadow IT by line-of-business departments is also a problem.

The first order of business, therefore, is to understand what is running on the network and how each application, including SaaS, is impacting the infrastructure and each other. By pinpointing the components in concern, IT departments can then prioritize business-critical applications and determine the best approach for optimization.

Dynamically choosing networks

New ways have emerged through which internet performance can be enhanced to pave the way for more reliable SaaS traffic. For example, an overlay network solution which includes servers across the world and advanced optimization technologies are being adopted by enterprises. The servers test and determine the performance of various Internet routes and send traffic down through to the network with the least congestion and latency. In the most extreme cases, this can increase cloud application performance by up to as much as ten times.

Another alternative option is the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) which equips enterprise networks with optimization and security plug-ins. This enables multiple Internet links to be used dynamically as one circuit, depending on real-time traffic.

Enterprises should explore hybrid network solutions with direct, private connectivity into the cloud data center, ensuring performant network speeds and the highest level of security. This is particularly important for organizations dealing with business-critical traffic and highly confidential data where they would prefer that the SaaS traffic stays within the corporate network.
Plugging security gaps

The growing use of cloud and Internet applications also opens enterprises up to greater cybersecurity threats, and the choice of internet gateway to and from a private corporate network and the Internet has a big role to play here.

Cloud-based security platforms protects smartphones, tablets, PCs and servers with continuous updates in response to emerging threats. By deploying a cloud-based security platform provisioned from regional distributed Internet gateways - encrypted traffic can be inspected at high speed. In contrast, traditional branch office appliances are unable to support deep content inspection due to the latency created by the distance to the data center. These legacy solutions are time consuming to update and scale, and leave mobile devices vulnerable to attack.
Dedicated gateways offer greater levels of security by eliminating the risks associated with shared infrastructures. Local Internet gateways, on the other hand, keep low-risk traffic private until it reaches cost-effective, local break-out points using secure IPSec tunneling.
The key in all of this is to have the flexibility to choose the best network dynamically based on the application, network performance and criticality.

Enterprises should see their security and network as a single entity and consider a hybrid network strategy that secures enterprise networks, the Internet and cloud holistically.

By Mr. Bala Mahadevan, CEO, India, Orange Business Services

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