IT execs flag agility as top reason for multi-cloud networking: Cisco

Enterprises doubling down on cloud networking is nothing new, but their reasons for doing so have begun to shift. Fresh data from Cisco suggests more companies are moving to a multi-cloud environment for more agile application development and placing less priority on reducing cloud costs.

According to Cisco’s 2023 Global Networking Trends report, 42% of IT executives said they want to use multiple private and public clouds for a more agile development environment as well as to better manage network security.

Business agility (40%) and resilience (35%) ranked slightly lower in importance, while 34% of respondents said they would transition to multi-cloud primarily to reduce cloud costs.

For the study, Cisco surveyed more than 2,500 IT executives across 13 countries to gauge their opinions on a successful cloud networking strategy. The decline in cloud cost concern is notable, as Cisco said cost reduction was ranked higher in its prior global networking reports.

The major cloud providers have cited steady cloud infrastructure spending, despite the uncertain economic environment. Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky recently stated while Amazon Web Services is seeing some clients cut budgets, the company remains “really excited about the business” in both the short and long-term.

Though cost and management will always play a role in network operations, stated Fabio Gori, Cisco VP of Networking Product and Solutions, enterprises are being pushed into creating new business applications and more quickly bringing them to market.

“Network operations teams are being asked to focus on helping their organization deploy new applications faster, support native cloud applications and create automation that accommodates rapidly changing business directions,” Gori wrote in the report. “Adopting an effective cloud operating model for internal IT, until now so effective with cloud providers, is increasingly the answer.”

With applications and user endpoints becoming increasingly distributed, over half (56%) of IT leaders consider security complexity the “most significant” challenge of managing hybrid cloud and distributed workloads, while 53% flagged complexity of end-to-end management as their primary challenge.

Those findings make sense, Cisco wrote, as many networks contain a mix of public cloud, hosted, private cloud, edge and on-premises environments. So, transactions that move around between those environments can introduce security risks that are beyond the direct control of an IT team.

VMware is one cloud provider aiming to simplify end-user networking, unveiling last week an SD-WAN “soft client” that can sit on an end-user’s device while being connected to an enterprise’s applications. And Cisco recently took SD-WAN to the next level, partnering with Microsoft to allow Cisco’s enterprise customers to route SD-WAN traffic over unused Azure backbone capacity – heightening end-to-end security while reducing costs.

Enterprises also face the challenge of upgrading traditional networking infrastructure to support multi-cloud networking, as Futuriom Chief Analyst Scott Raynovich noted in his recent column.

“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,” Raynovich wrote. “Worse yet: It requires truck rolls or manual configuration, which can’t possibly keep up with the speed of today’s cloud world.”

Despite continued innovation in cloud, Cisco doesn’t expect on-premises deployment to fall to the sidelines. About 38% of respondents in the CloudOps and NetOps space believe most enterprise workloads will still be deployed on-premises over the next two years.

“Even as hybrid work allows remote workers to roam ever more freely, for many organizations there will always be a need for on-premises infrastructure at headquarters to support more video-rich collaboration,” Gori stated in the report.

“Some industries just can’t be fully remote. And some data, due to privacy compliance or data security, is best located in company-owned data centers,” he concluded.