Enterprises are increasingly shifting to a multi-cloud environment. As the Flexera 2021 State of Cloud report shows, 78% of enterprises have opted for a hybrid-cloud - a mix of public, and private infrastructure. Moreover, 76% of the surveyed enterprises reported incorporating multiple public clouds, while 56% are using more than one private cloud. The most common combination is a multi-cloud architecture, with 43% taking this approach.
Trends and challenges in multi-cloud networking
These shifts are necessitated due to evolving business needs and the continued quest for agility, scalability, and resilience by enterprises. Some prime objectives behind a multi-cloud networking shift include:
- Autonomy: Distributing workloads across multiple CSPs to prevent vendor lock-in
- Global availability: Multiple cloud distribution reduces the chances of simultaneous downtime
- Project specific: Enterprises may need multi-cloud capabilities for some high-priority/ specific project requirements
- CSP capability: Enterprises may distribute workloads to other CSPs for their specific capabilities. For example, BigQuery with Google Cloud.
However, despite these benefits, a multi-cloud network architecture shift also presents complexities in terms of integration of disparate networks and infrastructure/workflow distribution and management. After an enterprise shifts to the cloud, basic networking gets exponentially complex at scale. In the case of a multi-cloud environment, achieving a repeatable architecture is vital but can be difficult to establish due to the proprietary architecture and the different nomenclature employed across disparate CSP environments. Due to these challenges, there is a distinct lack of multi-cloud readiness across enterprises.
Moreover, enterprises require end-to-end visibility and observability seamlessly to keep operations secure, resilient, and compliant. This becomes significantly more complex in a multi-cloud environment. According to a Deloitte report, more than 50% of respondents consider that lack of visibility and levels of complexity in a multi-cloud environment begets significant risks for security breaches. There are also several auxiliary challenges as follows:
- Architecture: The lack of a common architecture between different CSPs. E.g., workflows and enterprise apps distributed across GCP, and AWS lack a common security mechanism
- Cross CSP segmentation: Effectively implementing resource segmentation across CSPs to achieve segment-based access control, security mechanism, licensing, costing, segment-based policy enforcement, reporting, and more
- SaaS integration: Challenges pertaining to consistent connectivity and access required to SaaS like Salesforce or Office 365. For instance, a SaaS application payload that needs to access multiple clouds for different purposes, i.e. accessing cloud A for computing needs and cloud B for storage
- Service insertion and service chaining: Provisioning external vendors like firewall providers into a multi-cloud architecture and subsequently applying firewall policies to user devices can be difficult
- Remote access: Reliably fencing through remote access technologies like VPN
- Holistic security: Implementing a robust, integrated, and consistent security model across multiple clouds
- Cloud management: Lacking a unified visibility pane across CSPs, lack of control, and troubleshooting gets exacerbated with skill-set gap shooting up MTTR
- DevOps management: Multi-cloud DevOps management remains a critical challenge as hundreds of remote apps and infrastructure components are using myriad interfaces and orchestrations to execute across disparate cloud environments with different degrees of interoperability
Multi-cloud networking: Fostering seamless orchestration
Naturally, enterprises opting for multi-cloud framework need capabilities for holistic and intelligent traffic orchestration across disparate cloud environments. This is also true for enterprises moving from a private to a hybrid/ multi-cloud infrastructure where orchestration and synchronization between different cloud providers can be pivotal. By enabling an intelligent end-to-end network control mechanism, businesses can address their challenges in a scalable and sustainable manner.
However, the complexities of multi-cloud orchestration have led to a distinct lack of integrated services that can help enterprises and managed service providers unify multiple CSPs. As per Gartner estimates, even though 10-15% of all enterprises have adopted hybrid-cloud, but less than 100 use a single networking stack.
Due to this increasing need for multi-cloud strategies, a centrally managed, repeatable, and secure arrangement covering all necessary pillars with agility and scalability is the way forward. There are several imperatives for an integrated digital interface.
- It must be available as a service
- It must be able to create repeatable designs
- It must utilize native cloud construct/terminologies, and understand the different networking languages of major CSPs – GCP, AWS, OCI, Azure, etc.
Such a platform can address the common enterprise challenges with multi-cloud integration and traffic orchestration with the following mechanism:
- Architecture: In the absence of a common architecture between the public cloud platforms, a repeatable transit network architecture can be applied across multiple clouds which acts as an intermediate platform
- Resource management: A single central pane of an integrated control panel must be used to perform uniform segmentation of resources across the clouds, business groups (and further micro segmentation, if required), and the provisioning of licenses
- Observability and operational visibility: Solutions to achieve centralized observability, operational visibility, and control across multiple cloud providers must be integrated with the unified solution
- Entire enterprise fabric: SDWAN must be enabled to provide connectivity to the entire enterprise fabric with optimal access to SaaS applications and other vendors
- Security: Centrally controlled stable security model with elements such as global access policies and intent based policy creation should be leveraged. Also, utilizing technologies like IPSec and IDS/IPS can efficiently secure the network
- Management: Must include centralized access, upgrade, and management of architecture resources, life cycle management of overall architecture, and billing tags
- Future readiness: Enterprises operating in a single cloud today can also benefit from multi-cloud networking constructs as it enables their systems to seamlessly scale based on future scenarios. This will simplify their shift to multi-cloud quickly and easily when they decide to scale up
Reaping benefits: Exploring a turnkey project use case
As established, there is an acute need for a unified multi-cloud networking orchestration platform. Such a solution can foster several benefits, primarily in terms of turnkey projects. An integrated multi-cloud network management approach can reap several benefits for day-0, day-1, and day-2 operations for global enterprises.
Network management for turnkey projects
Day-0: Creating a connected architecture
Operation specific storage and computing are dispersed within the multi-cloud stack
Day-1: Building and Implementation
Includes provisioning of infrastructure resources. In a multi-cloud environment, an open-source tool like Terraform may be used on
Other services for resources include:
Day-2: Management and Operations
For Day-2 operations, multi-cloud governance remains a major point of concern for most enterprises. An ideal networking orchestration solution organizes the infrastructure along three main pillars of governance including:
- Visibility: Enables deep visibility into the consumption patterns of the multi-cloud; both at aggregate levels and granular levels. This empowers enterprises and MSPs to identify cost drivers easily
- Optimization: Technologies such as AI and ML are leveraged to continuously procure right-sizing recommendations. This not only makes the processes more efficient but also helps optimize costs
- Control: Multi-cloud networking orchestration can help to create automated policies to further streamline management and cut down costs. Proactive remediation empowers the support team and lets them initiate corrective measures before any incident or a cost driver arises
Built on these three pillars of governance, multi-cloud networking orchestrators impact the following areas of operations:
- End-to-end planning and execution of applications
- Automated installation and configuration of infrastructure packages
- Application environment provisioning
- Planning and execution of deployments
- Cost management with different cloud services cost tracking
- Entire application stack monitoring
- Security and governance of environment-related activities
- New environment creation with blueprint templates
- Consumed instances reporting
This degree of orchestration fosters tangible business benefits including:
- Faster deployments: Consolidated services translate into the same security capabilities, networking, and APIs across multiple cloud providers
- Managed servicing: Hands-on assistance for DevOps and NetOps teams to design, implement, and test the most secure and optimal network with the option of long-term maintenance and management
- Risk management: Features like consistent security policy management, containerized application segmentation, and compliance and regulatory adherence improve organizational security posture
- Workload flexibility: Automation and scaling of policy segmentation and identity and seamless workload migration
- Reduced TCO: Policy-based automation of inter-cloud connectivity, utilization of existing investment, and scaling of on-premise policy into cloud-native environments all contribute to reduce TCO
Partnering towards innovation
The rocketing growth of multi-cloud strategies and its associated concerns have opened a new world of multi-cloud networking and network management products/solutions. However, selecting and implementing the right services and solutions can be a challenge for most businesses due to the inherent complexities of a multi-cloud scenario exacerbated by onerous challenges.
This is where a managed network service (MNS) provider can act as a bridge between disparate cloud platforms and offer bespoke solutions that provide validated, ready-to-deploy frameworks with a multifaceted resource pool. For turnkey projects, multi-cloud networking enables a seamless transition between day-0, day-1, and day-2 activities. This ensures the long-term security, productivity, and resilience of enterprise networks.
In conjunction with experienced partners, enterprises stand to leverage the many benefits of a multi-cloud environment without countering the its inherent complexities. With this, there are opportunities abound for both enterprises wiling to enter a new era of digital dexterity, and for MSPs that are poised to be the facilitator for such a significant transition.
To know more, please reach out to us at Contact.NGN@hcl.com