Inside the multi-cloud networking wave – Raynovich


If you take a deep look at the digital communications markets these days you can see some clear long-term trends: more clouds, more connections and larger distributed systems. All this bodes well for networking technology that can connect as many clouds and things as possible – pushing us into the era of multi-cloud networking (MCN).

The MCN era will be a lot different from past eras of networking. The networking specialists these days like to complain about the fact that networks simply haven’t kept up with the other areas of cloud innovation such as storage and compute.

There is a thing called digital transformation, which is a fancy word for gathering more data to analyze and automate wherever possible. The megatrend driving MCN technology will be the growing need to connect as many things and networks together as possible. Large organizations are in fact accelerating their digital transformation strategies and moving to multiple cloud platforms to do so. The big challenge on the horizon is connecting these resources together with networks.

Traditional infrastructure is poorly equipped for this, whether that’s service provider networks or enterprise networks. Much of today’s networking infrastructure was built for a time when your email server was in a wiring closet or your database sat on a private server down the block. Worse yet: It requires truck rolls or manual configuration, which can’t possibly keep up with the speed of today’s cloud world.

That’s all changing, and the network will have to change too. Futuriom’s recent research in this market shows that as we see greater mix of public, private and hybrid platforms, new networking tools will be needed to connect these resources. This is the gestating technology market we call MCN.

Key driver: hybrid acceleration

Months of new Futuriom research, including an end-user survey and dozens of interviews with networking practitioners and the vendor community, indicate we are ushering in a new era of flexible, programmatic networking that can adapt to any environment: traditional enterprise, cloud, multi-cloud or even Internet of Things (IoT).

Let’s start with two things we have learned from surveys and talking to cloud and network architects. First, everybody is using more clouds. Our recent end-user survey (103 end users with director and above titles and network buying authority) indicates that 80% are managing two or more clouds.

In order to connect the clouds, professionals need multi-cloud and hybrid cloud tools, including a network.

Futuriom Multi-cloud survey chart

Our research indicates that networking is seen as a key piece of infrastructure needed for a full move to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies. As you can see below, of those surveyed, 81% indicated that MCN is expected to help simplify or accelerate hybrid or multi-cloud adoption.

What does MCN look like

You might ask: what’s different about MCN? What’s different is that it doesn’t just connect the same old switches and routers you saw in your office (back when you went to the office). The MCN is about Application Programming Interfaces (API)s, automated orchestration and visibility. It won’t just connect multiple clouds, it will understand the data and applications flowing between them.

This new networking will be based entirely on software, and it will make networking more immediately responsive to application needs. A new generation of MCN and hybrid cloud networking (HCN) solutions needs to be programmable, responsive and adaptable to any type of infrastructure.

A few more top-level points from our research:

End users see MCN and HCN as critical infrastructure. Of those surveyed, 47% would like to build cloud-native networking technology that is integrated with cloud provider constructs and connectivity models and 24% would like to increase their use of public cloud infrastructure using networking overlays.

End users and IT staff are starting investments in MCN, which they expect to improve cloud operations and security. Of those surveyed, 77% expect that MCN will help improve overall security, visibility and governance.

Traditional networking technology is poorly equipped to handle hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. Futuriom believes that MCN technology innovation is being driven primarily by the software and startup community, rather than traditional networking. With innovation and growth potential high, it will be an active M&A area.

We have high confidence in the conclusions about MCN and HCN drawn from our primary research. This year’s survey has confirmed many of the trends we have been tracking for several years, most notably the key need for new cloud networking technology to connect networks both inside of public clouds and to other, external clouds as well as to enterprise networks. Individual customers have confirmed these trends in our discussions.

What should you watch in this movement? There are large number of stakeholders in this market, including service providers, cloud providers, content delivery networks and networking vendors.

We expect the bulk of innovation in MCN to come among partnerships among the cloud providers and vendor community. Some key startups to watch in the vendor community include Alkira, Arrcus, Aviatrix, Graphiant and Prosimo. Leading cloud providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft will build out their networking tools at the edge and work with colocation providers such as Equinix, CoreSite and Digital Realty to extend network connection points and built software-driven, cloud-connected infrastructure. Software companies such as VMware and IBM will use their cloud infrastructure platforms to extend networks inside of clouds.

Finally, the service providers will have to move. They will need to abandon the idea of building monolithic networks in which they have full control and build out more flexible networking infrastructure that can be used by enterprise to connect to cloud. The service provider might begin to look more like some of the cloud onramp specialist such as MegaPort and PacketFabric, which focus on providing on-demand cloud connectivity.

The MCN ecosystem’s needs are far and wide. Watch this space carefully

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.