Cloud computing has become an integral part of modern computing with many institutions now using the model in some capacity to streamline their computing resources, build efficiencies, and re-architect enterprise topologies including networks, storage, applications, and servers. The evolution of Cloud technology continues to rapidly change, with many choices between public, private, hybrid Cloud, and multi-Cloud environment options emerging in the Cloud services market.
“The metaphorical term Cloud refers to a place where an institution can purchase and receive on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management or capital expense by the user. The term is generally used to describe data centers available to many users connecting via the Internet or more securely through Edge’s network backbone,” says Dr. Samuel S. Conn, President and Chief Executive Officer at Edge. “Cloud computing involves a paradigm of off-premise networking, hosting, storing data, computing, that technologists are embracing because they do not want to use valuable resources to maintain data centers and run applications. Cloud resources are very flexible and reliable, yet one does not have to physically manage them. While you can’t see or touch this technology, you can experience the impressive impact of the service.”
AWS Tools and Resources
Making the move to the Cloud can be an intimidating challenge for many organizations, especially with the variety of services and applications available. EdgeCloud helps members easily build a Cloud strategy through a personalized roadmap, while leveraging Edge’s partnerships with leading Cloud service providers and EdgePro resources. “Edge creates a simple mechanism for organizations to get their arms around all of the Cloud services available and understand the aspects of being in a Cloud resource without a great deal of visibility and tracking,” says Dr. Edward Chapel, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Edge.
EdgeCloud provides storage and other infrastructure for applications and Edge connects members to Amazon Web Services (AWS) products and services like EC2, ECS, and VMware on AWS. With direct peering connections to AWS and others, the Edge network enables members to quickly and securely connect to any Cloud provider. “Edge is unique from other research and education networks in our direct connectivity into Cloud infrastructure,” shares Conn. “The member traffic that is on our network never has to cross the commodity Internet. For example, connecting directly into AWS via the Edge network reduces security risks and performance issues. Plus, Edge was one of the first to negotiate a data egress waiver, where members do not pay for traffic that returns from AWS to the Edge Network, helping members save money when accessing their data.”
Developing a Cloud Strategy
Moving all or a portion of an organization’s applications, storage, and systems to a Cloud environment often requires a different skill set unique to Cloud architects, due to the different model of computing and how users interact with the technology. “Members should consider whether they want to have a migration strategy that moves to an all-Cloud environment or includes an interim step that uses a hybrid Cloud, where some computing aspects are still on premise and some are in the Cloud,” says Conn. “Developing a Cloud strategy needs to be planned from an architectural perspective. IT organizations are very familiar with running internal operations of their local area network, but moving to the Cloud extends those resources outside that network. Many new considerations come into play, including the quality of the network used to access applications, how to configure identity and access management, how to monitor and maintain the hybrid topology, how to integrate the architecture of the Cloud into the local area network, and how to best troubleshoot any performance issues.”
Many business applications were built for traditional technologies and organizations must keep their legacy systems in mind when considering Cloud migration. “Several organizations are accustomed to having software applications on premise, with the tendency for those applications to be customized for the unique nature and needs of the organization,” says Chapel. “In a software as a service (SaaS) environment, organizations must remember that any software applications that have been previously customized to a unique workflow and business process will need to be re-examined, since the capabilities of Cloud software are somewhat fixed.”
“If organizations are considering adding a new application, first explore using the application in the Cloud, rather than an on premise data center,” suggests Joe Rearden, Vice President Administration & Finance, General Counsel, and Chief Financial Officer of Edge. “A happy medium that works for many organizations is relying on Cloud managed services, whereby they are not in a SaaS environment, but have their applications managed in a Cloud service provider’s environment,” adds Chapel. “The organization exports the application to a Cloud location and can effectively conduct business while taking advantage of the Cloud capabilities.”
Edge expands the Cloud interconnection system by connecting to major Cloud providers on their peering fabric and allows members to leverage their existing Edge connection investment to improve business process flows. “Peering is a direct connection to the source,” explains Chapel. “When Edge has a peering fabric with highly desirable services, such as Google, AWS, Facebook, Netflix, and other Cloud-delivered services, this configuration means Edge plugs in directly to that company’s technology. Member organizations can access this technology directly from their campus when they use the Edge network, our backbone infrastructure. Peering connections take all of the stops across the Internet out of the mix and eliminate the vagaries of what goes on in the commodity Internet. Institutions can enjoy more reliable connectivity and better performance, while being insulated from the vast majority of security threats.”
The Edge Network
The Edge optical fiber network, EdgeNet, is a purpose-built, high-performance network designed to meet the unique needs of Edge members. “We built the Edge Network in such a way as to contemplate the needs of the types of organizations and individuals that are going to be using the network,” shares Chapel. “The most precious information and data resources live in the core of the network, while the transit technology moves along the external wing. We’ve insulated valuable information assets from potential risks that can often be encountered on the commodity Internet.”
A commodity Internet connection does not offer content, application protocol, destination restrictions or quality-of-service controls. “This connection is exposed and unregulated,” says Chapel. “On the Internet, data is encapsulated in packets and conjoined together like a freight train,” adds Conn. “As the packets are sent across the commodity Internet, the freight train is decoupled and because of the multiple pathways on the redundant Internet topology, each packet can take different routes to the destination. If one of those packets is lost along the way and you get an error, your data is not available and cannot be reassembled at the destination. This vagary is characteristic of the inherent nature of how the Internet is built, as opposed to dense wave division multiplexing or DWDM transmission on a private wide area optical fiber network, such as what Edge provides.”
EdgeNet is designed to provide a superior network connectivity experience to member organizations, delivering a secure transit of data connections and decreasing the chance of cyberattacks. “When you select a purpose-built, private network, you can greatly reduce those uncertainties and fulfill an expectation of better performance and a more secure transit for your precious information,” says Chapel. “The Edge network offers high burstable bandwidth and high speed capability; providing a very solid, strong, and safe network,” adds Conn.
Local vs. Wide Area Networks
A local area network is a group of computers and network devices connected together within the same area, often a private network owned and maintained by a single organization. A wide area network is not restricted to a geographical location. “Cloud architecture lives in the wide area,” explains Chapel. “With Cloud migration, an organization must coordinate their local area network architecture, rules, and protocols with the broader Cloud arena with devices at the outer edge of the local edge network. Managing all the technology at this outer doorway can be daunting and if not performed effectively, can adversely impact an organization. Edge understands the entire trip of the packet from the origination point to the end destination and is well-versed in the interface between the local area and the wide area. Edge is eminently qualified to manage those edge routing devices to provide maximum performance, and efficiency for an organization relying upon Cloud-architected services and accessing the wide area network.
The EdgeCloud Team
Migrating to the Cloud can bring great opportunities, but also present new challenges, especially if institutions are not versed in the new technology. Despite the many benefits of Cloud computing, the complexity and unique skillset required to make the transition can cause many organizations to pause. Navigating all the different Cloud services, deciphering the levels of Cloud use, and making key decisions about accessibility and storage requires a variety of unique knowledge. “Organizations will need someone who understands the scope of Cloud offerings and can match the scope of the migration to the business needs across the enterprise,” says Chapel. “Receiving assistance to organize the migration properly allows the institution to maximize the efficiency of their Cloud investment.”
The knowledgeable EdgeCloud team has professional training in Cloud computing, carrying the certifications and skills essential to making Cloud migration as seamless as possible. “For example, Edge has an AWS Cloud Architect,” says Chapel. “Many institutions may not be able to have an individual with these qualifications on staff. As an Edge member, organizations can access this valuable expertise as needed to make the journey to the Cloud successful. The EdgeCloud team works with an institution to create a unique, detailed Cloud strategy that effectively incorporates cost, efficiency, and risk factors, while protecting business needs and interests.”
Edge recently partnered with New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) to provide AWS services. Relatively new to the scene, NJII has built all of their applications in the Cloud. “NJII does not have a data center or physical server,” shares Rearden. “Since they are building on the AWS Cloud, NJII is able to scale up very quickly.” Due to challenges procuring AWS services, NJII turned to Edge and EdgeMarket to minimize the amount of effort required to research, analyze, and procure the essential tools they needed. “NJII is a pure Cloud play and they were able to swiftly and affordably procure directly with Edge and benefit from our EdgeMarket arrangement with AWS,” adds Conn.
Edge Cloud Partners
Edge partners with leading Cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform. “Edge has partnered with these particular Cloud providers because our industry providers often do the same,” shares Chapel. “Some of the largest enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution providers, with a big footprint in the state of New Jersey, are architecting their Cloud offering for their business systems in the AWS Cloud or in the Azure Cloud. Edge wants to ensure we are aligned with these Cloud services. When we go to these Cloud service providers for mission-critical systems and solutions, member institutions know they have a resilient and safe connection to those resources through Edge.”
No matter where organizations are on their Cloud journey, Edge is here to help take the mystery out of the process so each institution can complete the migration with confidence. “The notion that an organization can simply lift and shift everything into the Cloud oversimplifies the Cloud migration process,” says Conn. “The necessary steps are complex and sequential and the potential for error is relatively high. Having a partner like Edge, who knows the path and can help navigate both the opportunities and roadblocks, can make an institution’s migration to the Cloud extremely successful.”