What Is A Network?

What is a network?


You are having a conversation with a group of computer professionals. The conversation is about a recent event where a popular company’s website was not accessible from anyone’s internet for two days. People debate the cause and reasons for this event and what could have been done to prevent or at least reduce the chances of this event happening.

Then, in one second, confusion takes over. What was easy to understand is now confusing.

You will hear the word ‘network,’ but what does that mean? Furthermore, how is this used in the discussion above? Have no fear, for we will cover this and make it easy to understand.

The short answer is this: A network is a group of items that have a link or connection. THAT’S IT.

Let’s place a real-life example here to demonstrate this.

Think about the group of people who call you the most. If you have an Andriod operating system on your cell phone, you can open the phone app and see which contacts are listed under “Frequently Contacted.” These are the people the phone has recognized as those you contact the most overall. They are the people with who you have the most — at least on that phone — conversations.

It is these people that you have a connection, a link, with. You shared ideas and concepts on a regular basis with these people. In many cases, your thoughts have impacted them in some ways, and the same is vice versa for you.

You and these people have formed a network.

In the same way, information is shared with members in this Frequently Contacted list; devices that share data in a similar way are part of a network. If you can group devices that communicate with each other (share data)   they are a network.

There can be many examples of networks in a company’s computer setup.

Network of computers,

Network of routers,

Network of switches,

Network of mainframes,

First-floor network of computers, second-floor network of computers … the list can go on for a long time …

So, in short, a network is a group that shares data (linked/connected).

What Does On-Prem Mean?

Make no mistake; the cloud is the future of what business computing is going to be. Companies are now doing deeper investigations into how to use the cloud to increase profits and reduce costs. For companies like Microsoft Azure, this presents an outstanding opportunity as more companies move more of their computing tasks to the cloud.

However, this raises a question: if more businesses are moving to the cloud, where are they currently and how does it work right now?

Companies that are looking to move to cloud are largely looking to move computers and more that are currently in remote data centers and on-prem. When we say on-prem, what we mean is that the computers that do the massive processing and people who access that data are either on the same geographic campus or in the same building/complex.

Essentially, on-prem refers to being on the same premise as the person/people who are currently speaking.

Now, let’s connect this definition to the case above. The question was where are these companies currently, and how does that work right now?

Companies looking to move to the cloud in the future now have many computing resources on-prem, or in the same buildings as the people who utilize them. Examples include: on another floor of the same building, in the building next door, in a closet down the hallway, and more. The big computers (e.g., AS400 Mainframe, Cisco Nexus, Dell PowerEdge, EMC XtremIO, etc.) are usually in one or two locations if they are on-prem and all together in one big room. You may also find networking equipment in this location as well (e.g., Cisco Meraki, Cisco Catalyst 9300, Cisco Catalyst 8200 Edge uCPE, etc.).

So, in short, on-prem means at the same geographic location.

What Is The Cloud ?

There are many definitions and explanations for the question, “What is the cloud?” These explanations range from NIST government documentation to various YouTube videos to books such as “Explain The Cloud Like I’m 10” and “Cloud Computing For Beginners With Examples: Dummies Guide to Cloud Computing.” In short, there is no shortage of explanations for what the cloud is.

In the spirit of these events, I want to share my explanation of the common question, “What is the cloud?” Keep in mind, what I am going to respond with is more of a technical approach to this. A way of looking at this is to say it is an explanation for the technical professional.

What is the cloud? The cloud is virtualization in a data center the company does not own. For professionals, we have an awareness of virtualization and what it can do. What is needed for virtualization is a central location, which has computing power, network power, and storage power locally available. With the cloud, virtualization can continue WITHOUT THE NEED TO HAVE A LOCAL computer, network, and storage power. Furthermore, you rent those items as needed from a cloud service provider (such as Microsoft for Azure) on demand.

So, think of cloud computing as using any device with an internet connection to run apps on a set of machines you rent by the hour of computing time – you can run the apps just as if you were directly working with a computer you own; but you don’t have the computer purchase, warranties, and other costs to use a limited amount of the time.

So, in short: the cloud is virtualization in someone else’s data center.