Traditional network hardware reigned supreme until software-defined networking (SDN) came onto the scene. The emergence of SDN was a big step forward. It allowed for greater speed and flexibility through centralized control of distributed network software, programmatic network infrastructure, and increased security because it delivered scale, simplicity, and visibility into the entire network.
Since being introduced nearly a decade ago, SDN has evolved to solve many different needs, including network virtualization (abstracting networks of the workloads from the underlying hardware), fabric management (making the physical fabric easier to operate), and automation of networks, security, compute, and storage in the cloud. But today, as enterprises extend their infrastructure to multi-cloud environments, SDN needs to evolve once again.
The challenges of multi-cloud architectures
Multi-cloud architectures are an increasingly central part of enterprise strategies for delivering applications reliably. This isn’t surprising. Multi-cloud lets organizations take advantage of the latest innovations from each cloud vendor, which in turn provides increased agility and performance. This enables better customer experiences, better business outcomes, and better employee engagement and productivity.
However, from an operational and technology perspective, multi-cloud can create more complexity. Workloads and infrastructure must be managed on multiple clouds consistently, making the network architecture needed to connect all these applications and clouds more complicated. Each cloud is also managed by individual local admins through native and private cloud consoles, making the adoption of unified policies across the multi-cloud environment difficult. This poses operational challenges and adds complexities to managing hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure. When each cloud operates as a silo, operations and management become siloed, too.
Multi-cloud can also create more security risks. Sensitive data is moving around the enterprise and in different clouds, making it hard to know where and how to protect it consistently. Furthermore, if a threat actor were to get inside the network, they can move laterally through the network if they go undetected.
Addressing these challenges with multi-cloud networking software
The solution? Multi-cloud networking software, which builds on the foundation of SDN for this new paradigm. According to Gartner, "Multi-cloud networking software (MCNS) enables the design, deployment, and operation of a network in multiple cloud environments. MCNS products enable consistent networking policy, network security, governance, and network visibility across multiple cloud environments via a single point of management.”
The benefits of MCNS include:
- Faster time to market: A federated policy model across all leading public and private clouds will allow IT to achieve true policy consistency when implementing key multi-cloud use cases such as disaster recovery, workload mobility, service resiliency, cloud bursting, and elastic cloud-to-cloud connectivity. By extension, they will be able to bring applications from concept to the market more quickly, resulting in faster time to value.
- Increased visibility: Administrators will have visibility into cloud application flows so that they can easily troubleshoot and remediate issues that could cause serious disruptions to application availability and experience.
- Management of policies: Each cloud has its own set of networking features, security rules, and automation policies, making it difficult to adopt unified policies. MCNS can help centralize all networking and security policies ensuring consistency across multi-site and multi-region deployments.
Given all the criteria and challenges of today’s multi-cloud world, the demands may seem a bit daunting, especially as the industry deals with talent shortages and reduced budgets. But an MCNS strategy can help mitigate these challenges and even improve better business objectives and outcomes. Leading organizations will be able to leverage MCNS to mitigate operational complexity, provide flexibility and scalability, and improve security posture.
Rob Markovich leads Product Marketing for Multi-Cloud Networking and Network Virtualization at VMware.