Today’s CIOs face a challenging reality. As organizations around the world move applications and workloads to the cloud and work to ensure on-demand application availability, connecting workloads reliably and at scale has never been more difficult. CIOs are now tasked with connecting and managing data, applications, and logical connections in an efficient and secure way throughout a multi-cloud environment.
What used to be contained within the four walls of a customer’s data center has since expanded across the internet. Now data, applications, and connections are spread across multiple clouds. As a critical asset, the data center must connect logically through a multi-cloud network. When customers want to set policies between data and apps that reside in the data center or business apps that are spread across multiple clouds in a microservice architecture, they need to have a way to manage the network and connect the assets in a consistent way.
To tackle the complexity of multi-cloud, organizations require a coherent cloud networking operating model that is built around four key design principles: automation, consistent operations, a platform approach, and a unified experience. Enterprises must address these requirements to optimize hybrid, multi-cloud environments and deliver business agility and the best customer experiences.
Leverage automation to ensure consistent connectivity
Automation is an essential requirement for enterprises that are operationalizing hybrid cloud network environments. On-prem data centers and cloud data centers can't be manually controlled and operated. Using automation powered by AI/ML enables self-service capabilities for enterprises and streamlines network provisioning and operations. Other benefits include ongoing compliance and conformance checks, cost reductions from eliminating manual processes, and easing integration of on-prem resources with cloud. Yet how enterprises adopt automation is far from easy, and deployment of automation must be thoughtfully considered.
In order to have consistent connectivity, automated processes are key for enterprises to manage their multi-cloud network with minimal errors and preserve company resources. For example, if a service was to go down, an automated network process would be able to detect the outage, mitigate potential issues, and alert IT teams.
Additionally, the work-from-anywhere model has increased the number of users connecting to applications without physically traversing to corporate-owned network devices. Therefore, it’s important that processes can connect workloads from anywhere through automation with deep visibility and insights into the network and application.
Simplified operations with consistent infrastructure visibility
Managing a multi-cloud network can be confusing with information stored in a variety of places. Now more than ever, enterprises need help on how to manage connectivity across the network and within their clouds with a coherent operating model. Simplifying operations will ensure consistent access across the network and a holistic view of the network's entire infrastructure. With a simplified and automated system, IT teams can easily identify what’s working within and pinpoint where issues arise. As a result, teams gain the necessary insights to make informed decisions.
Manually modifying the network across multiple different clouds can be labor-intensive and costly. When IT teams have correlated visibility and insight available from a single UI across all clouds, they can significantly reduce operational concerns. Enterprises should do their best to avoid implementing different operating models for the same cloud networking infrastructure, as they create unnecessary complexities and take up more time and resources.
Platform approach that supports multiple clouds
A platform approach is based on the concept of bringing together platforms that will work well together, with greater common capabilities, more sharing of information, and an API-driven approach. By implementing a platform approach to hybrid multi-cloud operations, enterprises can manage their data and applications in a more efficient way. For example, with a hybrid cloud operations platform that provides integrated full-lifecycle workflows across all clouds, IT teams can drastically reduce inefficiencies and gain stronger insights. Network and IT teams with a single point of management with usage-based or on-demand networking and operational services across the whole network, as opposed to a pure engineer view, can enable simplicity within the often-confusing variety of clouds.
Unified experience for users and operators
Cloud networking complexities can be alleviated with a unified experience anchored by a simplified operational model. When IT operations, NetOps, and DevOps can all work with a simplified and unified experience, it drives efficiency, engenders teamwork, and allows a cross-section of teams to adjust the system or gather insights as needed.
A single intent-aware cloud networking fabric defined in policy and managed from the cloud can help consolidate and align network security, network-to-network visibility, governance, and consistent network policies via a single point of management.
Simplicity, unification, and automation
With data, workloads, and connections spread across multiple clouds, the data center must connect to the multi-cloud network. However, managing this distributed network with a consistent platform-based operational model is becoming increasingly difficult – especially for enterprises already short on time and resources.
CIOs who keep simplicity, unity, and automation top of mind while creating a multi-cloud networking strategy will alleviate the burden on their IT teams and see the most efficient results. Despite data and workloads living across different clouds, this approach can keep data and connections secure and organized.
Thomas Scheibe is Vice President, Product Management Data Center and Provider Connectivity at Cisco.