Do Enterprises Need a Toll Road to the Cloud?

iStock_000007931678SmallThe adoption of cloud services on the part of enterprise IT is still in the nascent stage. Enterprise IT departments continue to see cloud services as more appropriate for applications being written primarily by the Web 2.0 crowd –- if you want to build a new application on Python, Ruby or Perl, then cloud services are for you — but not for those that, say, house the financials of a large corporation or store retail inventory data.  If cloud services are going to move past their current stage, there needs to be a way for enterprises to use them in a manner that guarantees both network performance and security. That could require the emergence a service provider that aggregates dedicated connections to each of the public cloud providers.

Back in the Web 1.0 days, if an enterprise wanted to connect over the Internet, it paid to install a dedicated leased line network connection to a service provider (sometimes called an extranet connection) that was secure and had predictable performance.  If the enterprise had enough of these extranet connections to render them unwieldy to manage or they were housed in multiple distant geographies, it could opt to pay to install a private network connection to a co-location facility, then pay for co-location space and finally, pay to connect to multiple extranet partners with intra-facility LAN connections. Over the past decade, of course, the public Internet has increased in speed and reliability and a number of these private network connections have been replaced by secure virtual private network (VPN) connections.

But cloud services providers don’t currently offer standard products that allow enterprises to install private network connections (either paid, dedicated leased lines or VPNs) that would provide predictable network performance and security.  Also, while an industrious enterprise could pay to install a private connection to a co-location facility where cloud services providers are also co-located, there’s no standard product (at least not that I’m aware of) that allows for a paid intra-facility LAN connection between the enterprise and the public cloud.  In other words, an enterprise cannot pay to install a dedicated link to a public cloud and get the network performance and security it’s so far been accustomed to getting.

One solution would be for cloud services providers to offer dedicated leased line connections to their clouds. Though for many enterprises the cost of these leased lines over large geographies would be enough to eat into any savings they’d be getting by using the cloud in the first place. Another solution would come in the form of a service provider that aggregated dedicated connections to each of the public cloud providers.

This new provider — let’s call it CloudNAP (Cloud Network Access Point) — would solely be in the business of providing a toll road between the enterprise and the public cloud providers.  The business of selling connectivity to the Internet, or transit, is a common ISP offering.  The CloudNAP transit service would be different, however, in that it would be focused on delivering connectivity solely between enterprises and cloud services providers and not between enterprises or between clouds. In order to make network connectivity to the toll road cost-effective for an enterprise, CloudNAP would offer POPs (point-of-presence) in multiple geographies.  Each CloudNAP POP would have dedicated leased lines to the networks of the major cloud services providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google AppEngine, the Rackspace Cloud, etc.

The CloudNAP network could guarantee  performance between the enterprise and the cloud by working with the service providers to enable the use of quality-of-service techniques that are not available over the public Internet such a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) classes for WAN connections or IEEE 802.1p priorities for LAN connections. Perhaps CloudNAP could even restrict the use of connections to cloud service protocols and services like REST (representational state transfer) or HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) -– thus preserving the network for its intended use by the enterprise.

What do you think?  Would a private toll road between the enterprise and the public cloud lead to a faster enterprise IT adoption?