Direct Link facilitates secure and scalable hybrid clouds

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direct-link-secure-scalableMany organizations use cloud computing services to reduce information technology (IT) costs and take advantage of new business opportunities.

For enterprises that have traditionally built and operated (or leased) their own IT infrastructure, the proliferation of mobile and web applications, ever-increasing sources of data, and easy access to advanced cloud analytics have created an application economy in which business success now depends on building cost-optimized hybrid cloud architectures that combine those private IT resources with cloud services purchased from cloud service providers (CSPs).

Hybrid cloud architectures span several high-level operational capabilities including service and operations management; backup, archive and recovery; disaster recovery and business continuity; cloud services brokerage; and hybrid cloud connectivity.

Of these capabilities, hybrid cloud connectivity describes the combined simultaneous use of public and/or private clouds provided by IT resources hosted on premises, in a co-located facility, and/or off premises in a CSP’s facility. Hybrid cloud connectivity can occur at one or more layers at the same time, including the data layer, the services (or API) layer, the management layer, the network layer, or at an added “integration” layer. Examples of application environments where hybrid cloud connectivity is necessary include:

  • A legacy, monolithic application running in a private data center writing large amounts of data to cloud-based storage.
  • A cloud-native mobile application running off premises on a public cloud that analyzes data stored on premises due to residency requirements.
  • High-volume application programming interfaces (APIs) whose fulfillment requires rapid completion of complex orchestrations across on-premises and off-premises computing resources and data.

Optimal choice of hybrid cloud connectivity layers depends on several factors unique to a particular application environment, primary among them being security, performance and scalability. For organizations with existing IT facilities seeking to migrate to a hybrid cloud environment, who typically require enterprise-level scalability, the performance and security they require is best achieved by forming network-layer connections between on-premises and off-premises IT resources. Since the advent of computer networking, the Internet and, recently, hybrid cloud computing, this has been routinely achieved through layer 2/3 connections between network elements such as routers, firewalls and gateways with controlled routing and/or switching policies between them. At IBM, we offer network-layer hybrid cloud connectivity through Direct Link.

Direct Link is offered via IBM SoftLayer, the IBM infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform.  It allows IBM Cloud customers to connect their wide-area network (WAN), colocation environment or cloud exchange provider directly to the cloud through IBM’s global points of presence (POP). Designed to create secure, worldwide extensions for private networks, this connectivity option serves as a scalable, high-performance alternative to forming hybrid clouds using site-to-site tunnels (IPSec, PPTP) or application-to-application tunnels (SSL) over the public internet.

A dedicated fiber connection (one or 10 Gigabits per second) connects the customer’s service equipment (provided by the customer or the telecom carrier) and the network equipment located in an IBM PoP. Once dedicated physical connections are established, routing and/or tunneling policies must be created to ensure secure separation of customers’ traffic on the IBM global network and to differentiate between privately and publicly accessible computing resources. I’ll discuss the connectivity options for Direct Link in more detail in my next blog post.

Building a secure, high-performance, hybrid cloud environment doesn’t have to be complicated. IBM helps make it easy with Direct Link. While there are other options for integrating private, public and hybrid clouds, Direct Link stands out as the hybrid cloud connectivity option that provides the security, price and performance characteristics required to operate hybrid clouds economically at enterprise scale.

To learn more about Direct Link and other features and technology available with IBM SoftLayer, check out our Cloud How-To webcast series.

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