Cloudflare thinks the Alkira, Aviatrix multi-cloud approach is outdated

  • Cloudflare is getting into the multi-cloud networking space

  • The company is using technology from Nefeli to fuel its move

  • Stiff competition from incumbents and newcomers could be a challenge

When you think of multi-cloud management, Alkira and Aviatrix are probably two of the first names that come to mind. Cloudflare wants to change that.

The company just announced plans to jump into the multi-cloud arena with the forthcoming launch of its Magic Cloud Networking solution, a new facet of its Cloudflare One platform.

The tool will offer a unified portal through which customers can configure cloud constructs like VPN gateways, routes and security groups and monitor cloud network deployments across environments. It will be based on orchestration technology from multi-cloud startup Nefeli, which Cloudflare just acquired.

Annika Garbers, Cloudflare’s director of product, told Silverlinings the difference between its approach and that of the Alkiras and Aviatrixes of the world is that it will not use virtual machines or virtual routing functions (VRFs).

She explained that data centers used to be chock full of networking equipment, everything from routers and SD-WAN devices to firewalls and intrusion detection systems. What companies like Alkira and Aviatrix did was port those hardware functions to virtual machines that were deployed in a cloud environment. (Update: Alkira subsequently responded to this story with a blog refuting Cloudflare's assertion that it uses either of these approaches.)

While that approach used to be cutting edge when cloud environments were nascent, the virtual machines still had a lot of the same limitations as hardware, Garbers explained.

Tapping into the cloud data plane

Instead of using virtual machines or virtual network functions, the technology Cloudflare is using from Nefeli will tap into native cloud data plane constructs to provide management capabilities.

“The idea with the cloud-native constructs instead is all of that is abstracted away and you just have to think about the configuration that you’re managing— as opposed to the underlying infrastructure that the configuration is deployed on,” Garbers said.

In short, the idea is to try to reduce complexity as much as possible. That’s key, given a report out from Dynatrace this week found the average multi-cloud environment now spans 12 platforms and services, including hyperscale clouds, local infrastructure as-a-service (IaaS) providers and private IaaS platforms. Half of technology leaders surveyed for the report said they expect multi-cloud complexity to continue to increase.

“We think the strides the cloud providers have made in surfacing those capabilities to customers through their native platform and with their APIs in Terraform, it actually achieves the goals of most enterprises. So now it’s about how do you just make that easier to manage and give you one place to control your routing and security policy for both your WAN…and now also within the cloud environment,” Garbers continued.

The beta version of Magic Cloud Networking will be available in Q2, he noted.

Cloud is magical

According to Garbers, the value of Cloudflare’s new solution increases as the complexity of the network increases. So, she said, it has already seen a lot of interest from larger enterprises and organizations that have gone through a lot of mergers and acquisitions. But it has also heard from smaller devops-oriented orgs that want access to the tools Cloudflare’s product can surface.

Garbers said Cloudflare believes it can carve out a spot in the market through a combination of capturing new growth and taking market share from incumbents.

However, the vendor is playing in an increasingly crowded space. In addition to Alkira and Aviatrix, it will also be facing off with the likes of VMware, Cisco, Arrcus, F5 and Prosimo as well as new entrants including Equinix and Verizon, among others

An IDC representative told Silverlinings the analyst firm has forecast the overall multi-cloud networking market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 67% between 2023 and 2027.

By 2027, IDC believes the market will be worth nearly $3.11 billion, up from $830 million in 2024.