Fierce’s Multi-Cloud Networking 101 series takes a look into the future, using a series of progressive interviews with experts to help readers better understand the key foundational concepts and market landscape of multi-cloud networking. This emerging field aims to solve the problems associated with linking networks and applications across multiple cloud environments.
You can view the first installment, an interview with VMware, here.
This week's interview features Rod Stuhlmuller, VP of product marketing at Aviatrix. The interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
FierceTelecom (FT): What elements of cloud architecture are covered by a multi-cloud networking platform (APIs, network configuration, security, analytics, troubleshooting)?
Rod Stuhlmuller (RS): The simple answer is all elements of cloud networking architecture should be covered by a multi-cloud network platform.
Gartner describes multi-cloud networking as software that enables the design, deployment and operation of a network within multiple cloud environments, to enable consistent networking policy, network security, governance and network visibility across multiple cloud environments via a single point of management.
While multi-cloud networking has often been positioned as networking to multiple clouds by technology providers who are not networking in the cloud, a true multi-cloud network platform enables networking to, within and between multiple public clouds, with all the operational elements that enterprises require to do this in the simple, agile and efficient way everyone expects in the cloud.
To achieve this, a multi-cloud networking platform needs to operate within any public cloud, but abstract the unique networking, security and operational complexities of the underlying cloud platforms. It must leverage and control each cloud’s native networking constructs and add advanced functionality, where needed, to overcome native limitations and deliver a superset of capabilities in a consistent way across all cloud platforms.
FT: Does consistency across cloud environments really matter that much?
RS: The bottom line is consistency reduces complexity. It improves governance and auditability, simplifies automation and reduces the service delivery speed that is needed to meet enterprise business expectations.
Sure, it’s possible to build a multi-cloud environment with inconsistent network architectures, designs and security policies, but taking this approach is exponentially more complex to deploy and operate, requires expensive resources with deep expertise for each cloud platform and adversely impacts agility and service delivery speed.
Enterprises are driven to multi-cloud environments for many reasons, from applications that simply operate better in one cloud verses another (e.g., Office 365 applications in Azure or Oracle Exadata in OCI), to customer demand for one cloud platform verses another, to business mergers and acquisitions that bring technology developed to operate in a different cloud platform.
Enterprises who architect for multi-cloud readiness today, even when only in a single cloud, are building a foundation for network, security and operational consistency today and for their inevitable multi-cloud future.
FT: Ok, so why don’t the big cloud providers just provide multi-cloud networking capabilities themselves?
RS: It’s certainly a combination of reasons. First, cloud providers have little incentive to enable their captive customers to easily build and operate “multi-cloud” environments. They would rather position that it is better and easier for customers to be in their cloud only.
That said, there are also many technical and market factors that drive the capabilities and limitations of big cloud provider networking constructs and services. Cloud providers build minimum viable solutions to reach the broadest possible customer base and partner with companies, like Aviatrix, who have demonstrated the proven ability to deliver and support advanced networking, security and operational features enterprises require.
As market dynamics change, will cloud providers add to or improve their capabilities? Of course they will. This is one of the key reasons enterprises should select a cloud network platform that leverages and controls cloud provider native constructs and services where possible, and provides the advanced multi-cloud network, security and operational services enterprise require and cloud providers depend on partners to deliver.
FT: What use cases can multi-cloud networking serve today? Are new use cases emerging?
RS: From a use case perspective, multi-cloud networking is the foundation for enterprise computing going forward, so pretty much everything that encompasses. Just as data center networking was the foundation of enterprise computing during the client server-Internet era, multi-cloud networking is the foundation for the cloud era.
Pulling from Gartner’s Market Guide, Gartner describes that cloud networking software supports applications and workloads in cloud environments, including servers, containers, storage, and other services such as databases, load balancers and firewalls. This networking software augments and/or replaces network functionality that exists within public cloud provider environments. Further, cloud networking software enables consistent networking features and management within multiple cloud environments that may otherwise have disparate capabilities.
Many initial use cases are driven by corporate or regulatory security mandates such as consistent Internet egress filtering, next generation firewall insertion, end-to-end and/or high-performance encryption. However, these initial use cases, quickly expand to more uses cases as enterprises discover advanced networking features such as high-availability multi-path, multi-region and multi-cloud network traffic engineering and enterprise-class operational visibility and troubleshooting that is simply not available from their cloud providers.
In terms of emerging use cases, a multi-cloud network platform, with a centralized, intelligent controller and software-based cloud network and security infrastructure opens the door for dynamic infrastructure optimization use cases that have only been imagined in the past. Enterprise applications will soon have the capability to make intelligent decisions that programmatically control the multi-cloud network infrastructure to dynamically optimize for application performance, security or cost requirements.
FT: Can multi-cloud networking platforms scale as more applications are added to the cloud? Does this make the networking more complex?
RS: One of the benefits of cloud infrastructure is it offers virtually infinite scale. However, as mentioned earlier, most cloud providers have limited the scale their native networking constructs and services delivery. When enterprises reach these limitations, they are forced to architect around them, causing complexity and inconsistencies in both network design and security policies.
An enterprise-class multi-cloud network platform overcomes native cloud provider limitations to provide scale and multi-cloud consistency that simplifies cloud network architecture and improves security posture.
FT: What is the biggest hurdle to multi-cloud networking today, and how can this be resolved?
RS: The biggest hurdle to multi-cloud networking is human resource skills gap. It is unique to find enterprise resources who are both experts in networking and in cloud. Multi-cloud networking solutions are most likely being viewed from the perspective of a network architect, whose experience is based on data center era networking architecture and designs or the perspective of a cloud architect, normally with single cloud provider expertise and little or no network architecture experience.
Gartner recommends, “Don’t forklift traditional networking strategies into the public cloud.” Many enterprises have, understandably, have made this mistake because traditional network vendors tell them it’s exactly what they should do. On the other hand, cloud service providers tell cloud architects they have everything and anything they will ever need. Taking either path blindly will result in an expensive pivot.
To resolve this dilemma, enterprises should consider cloud networking software to achieve the advanced networking features and/or network consistency required for modern multi-cloud environments. Take the time to educate your networking and/or cloud teams on multi-cloud networking, learn from multi-cloud experts.