What’s the Big Deal with Multi-Cloud Networking?

The other day I was pruning my apps on my phone to delete those that had not been used in a long time. Here are some that gave me pause:

  • Business (Adobe, Concur, Dropbox, etc)
  • E-commerce (Amazon, Grocery Shopping, Meal Delivery, Starbucks, etc)
  • Financial Institutions
  • G-Suite Apps
  • Microsoft 365 Apps
  • Home Automation (Amazon Alexa, Home Automation)
  • Entertainment (Netflix, Spotify, etc)
  • Security (Password Managers, Authenticators, SSO)
  • Media (News)
  • Multimedia conferencing (Zoom, etc)

I’m sure many of you have a longer lists. Each of these apps has a cloud presence that we often take for granted. We just sit back and assume that the infrastructure is taken care of, and it is for smartphone owners. But for a large company, or enterprise, that infrastructure is far more complex.

Take an enterprise A that uses multiple clouds to leverage their respective strengths:

  • Microsoft – Active Directory and Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365)
  • Google – TensorFlow AI
  • Oracle – PeopleSoft and Siebel
  • AWS – For everything else (that sounds like the MasterCard ‘priceless’ slogan)

Enterprise A could be any company that seeks best-in-class solutions and does not want to be locked in to that vendor. It could be where you work. The need for multi-cloud adoption has been emphasized by analyst giants, such as Forester, IDC, and Gartner. Specifically,

  • According to a 2019 study conducted by Forester and commissioned by IBM, Forester recommends to hedge against cloud vendor lock-in by designing for multicloud deployment and architectures wherever possible. This makes sense: if you are an ISV that offers services on one cloud, your customer might demand to be served in multiple clouds so that they are not tied to that cloud.
  • After the outbreak from the COVID-19 pandemic, IDC stated in March 2020 that by 2022, over 90% of enterprises worldwide will be relying on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs.
  • At the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference held in June 2020, Gartner were very clear about “Do Not Design for Single Cloud” in their 6 steps for planning a cloud strategy:
  1. Develop a cloud-first and multicloud strategy
  2. Continuously practice workload placement analysis
  3. Plan for cloud adoption maturity
  4. Establish multicloud governance and management processes
  5. Develop a multicloud management tooling strategy
  6. Evaluate multicloud SaaS integration requirements

Coming back to Enterprise A: The cloud networking requirements for each of those is intricate enough. Now, suppose that enterprise needs to acquire or partner with Enterprise B that uses these cloud services:

  • Microsoft – CosmosDB
  • Google – G-Suite and GKE
  • AWS – For everything else

All of a sudden, this snowflake will become a nightmare to build and integrate applications across multiple clouds. At its core, there is a strong requirement for standardized plumbing. Without a multi-cloud networking blueprint or reference architecture, it is not feasible to build and manage this requirement at scale.

Alternatively, Enterprise C might be 100% invested in AWS, while Enterprise D is a GCP shop. Now, suppose that C acquires D. This happens more often than you might think, recently as follows:

Another point worth revisiting is of vendor lock-in. Cloud is all about infrastructure-as-code and so each vendor has a proprietary cloud-native approach to automating their infrastructure. AWS has CloudFormation, Microsoft has Azure Resource Manager, and GCP has Deployment Manager. Developing a mastery in any one of those is not a trivial endeavor. Once enterprises go down the multi-cloud path, they need cloud-agnostic tools, such as Terraform, which requires talent investment, which, in turn, results in higher Opex. That’s when they need to look at multi-cloud networking and security solutions.

How do you learn multi-cloud networking? Well, I have spent a fair bit of time working with one such vendor – Aviatrix Systems. They cover more than just the network plumbing of multi-clouds. With their Co-Pilot release, they can enable IT revenue generation by providing business intelligence through deep insights into apps. You can learn more about their solutions and receive in-depth training here.

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