The idea that IT departments are increasingly acting as ‘service brokers’ has been a hot topic in recent times, but a change of focus is seeing the ‘self manage’ cloud at the forefront. Having a unified platform, that is managed centrally and gives developers freedom, helps prevent people internally taking things into their own hands and is an attractive proposition for those concerned with matters of compliance and regulation. The concept being that the outsourced IT supplier provides cloud services, but the organisation ultimately retains control over its IT.

As a result, we’re seeing hybrid cloud models being embraced that play very well into the networking arena, which is all about security, compliance and keeping a handle on workloads. However, organisations intent on taking too much of a hands-on approach to networking (when it comes to cloud) may struggle to anticipate the future requirements in a rapidly changing market. Engineering infrastructure for short term requirements can be highly counterproductive.

Most companies have private cloud or a configuration of a hybrid public cloud; what they really need to look at is what percentage of workloads, over a period of time, will be possible to outsource and then plan a network around the findings. They need to look at overall cost, security and compliance and as long term contracts diminish, look at ‘on demand’ services.

The next big thing is ‘Software Defined Networking’ (SDN). We have already had the Software Defined Datacentre (SDD) where, without having direct access, businesses can set up an entire data centre. This is made possible through self service/managed services through a cloud vendor, where the customer simply swipes a credit card and can add on services (in terms of storage or infrastructure). What has been missing is the critical connection to the actual network itself. When it comes to risk and compliance, that is where IT departments are able to get to the crux of the real issues that concern them: the security and protection of their data.

What we are now seeing is that SDN is giving IT departments a greater grasp of the networking itself so they can self manage. Implementation compliance rules and procedures are what are needed and are what the major vendors are starting to bring out. This approach fits very nicely with the hybrid scenario of private and public cloud, where users can set up rules using the SDN approach to make a more secure and stable connection between the data centres they have alongside the cloud they are looking to use as well.

There is always going to be a lot of discussion about the right and wrong ways of going about cloud and networking. Ultimately, businesses need to look at a long term approach when outsourcing any type of IT workloads, as the market is changing so quickly. The suppliers with depth and breadth of services are certainly providing newer, more innovative technologies, but the IT departments have work to do.

Companies looking at a rigid, hands on approach to networking when it comes to cloud are going to struggle to put the long term business goals in place. There has always been the term ‘Cloudwashing’ and companies have been hesitant to put all their eggs in one basket. What we are starting to see now is the demise of long term contracts and companies now need to look at providers who will give them that on demand, short term, scale up and scale down capability.

Those are the key things businesses should be looking out for when choosing a cloud provider. Cloud providers should have the ability to provide self services to the organisations. Focus has been on outsourcing business applications and data, but the weak link has always been networking; having a fast and reliable network to transport all of that from one location to another. The future lies with IT providers that can combine their networks with a potential outsource proposition, utilising their data centres with the network and developing a cloud offering central to such a proposition.