Cloud Management for Network Engineers
With a more expansive and dynamic network, network engineers can benefit from new skills in cloud management.
If you’re like most network engineers, more of your organization’s workloads are moving into the cloud which puts more of a focus on cloud management. According to Gartner, the cloud computing market, predicted to hit $260.2 billion by the end of 2017, has experienced an 18.5 percent increase over 2016 levels. IaaS is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 23.31 percent per year through 2020, with major growth also expected in PaaS and SaaS.1
Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, says that in a cloud-prevalent world, network engineers still have local tasks, such as managing wireless networks or managing WANs that connect branch offices.2 As workloads transfer out of on-premises data centers and into infrastructure with networks serviced by a CSP, you also become responsible for connecting customers with cloud services and ensuring the seamless transfer of data, both from your data center to cloud services and seamlessly between cloud providers, as applicable. Network monitoring tools can help you maintain visibility into these environments, so you can diagnose and remediate issues quickly. But the key to surviving and thriving as workloads move into the cloud requires a new way of approaching your job.
Take a Service-Oriented Approach
Instead of thinking about the list of hardware you need to maintain, cloud requires you to shift your thinking toward services. The network engineer’s job is to keep people connected to their services, whether applications are hosted in the on-premises data center or in the cloud. At the simplest level, you have to ensure there’s sufficient bandwidth for employees to access enterprise-wide SaaS tools, like Office 365 or Google Apps. For data transfers within the cloud-hosted infrastructure, you’re working with virtual appliances and the cloud provider’s gateways, and you have to be confident that your on-site tools play nicely with those off-premises resources.
The more you maintain communication with business units, systems admins, developers and IT leaders, the more you know what people need and where the organization is going. You can be instrumental in helping them decide where to host applications based on performance requirements and on updating capacity to handle communications with cloud services. Good network monitoring tools can give you insights into past performance as well as current network demands so you can map out where your organization needs to invest.
Beef up Your Software Skills
As SDN becomes more prevalent, legacy approaches to network management aren’t going to be enough. Within the cloud, the infrastructure itself is programmable; you’re no longer connecting static environments with a known number of servers. You need to automate the orchestration of traffic throughout your networks, which means you’re going to have to brush up your programming skills.
Virtualized network function (VNF) technology means that within your data center and with your CSP, you’re going to be orchestrating workloads using commodity hardware. To take advantage of cloud’s elasticity, applications should be able to call upon more virtual resources when demand spikes and to decommission resources when demand dies down. Applications also need to change the network’s behavior based on the user’s location or based on network congestion. Whether you like it or not, you have to get more comfortable working with software – and consider automation as you monitor network traffic.
It’s best for the overall network if IoT devices can perform certain functions without waiting to communicate with a cloud server. For example, if a sensor on an oil rig detects a dangerous spike in temperature, it should be able to shut down the device on its own before sending data to a cloud server.
Sensors should also be able to do a range of tasks without congesting your networks by sending packets to your cloud servers. Your expertise in edge computing, from enabling these simple functions to creating mesh IoT networks to determining ways to facilitate analytics at the edge, can prove invaluable as your organization aims to get the most from IoT while avoiding major network congestion.
These aren’t the only big changes coming to networking within the next few years – we haven’t even touched on 5G. But one thing is certain: Cloud creates a more expansive and dynamic network, and you need visibility into every part of it. VIAVI provides best-in-industry network monitoring tools that help you get great performance from cloud environments.