Enterprise customers are finally beginning to appreciate the importance – and challenges – of building networks inside and between clouds.

It is no coincidence that this revelation comes as the volume of enterprise workloads and data migrated to cloud services is set to double – from 20% this year to 40% in 2023.

This prediction is from a newly published Gartner Market Guide to Cloud Networking, which is based on a poll of 427 members of Gartner’s ITL Research Circle, a group of CIOs, CTOs and IT leaders representing enterprises from a number of industry sectors.

This is the first time Gartner has attempted to define the emerging market for products and services that, in its words “address ‘inside the cloud’ and multi-cloud networking challenges”.

We welcome this research because it validates the strategy that Alkira embarked on three years ago. Our mission is to help customers to eradicate the complexity and harness the power of cloud networking to supercharge their digital transformation programs.

The enterprises polled by Gartner echo our own conclusions, namely that:

  • The native networking capabilities of cloud vendors don’t meet enterprise requirements for production workloads
  • Virtual routers, appliances and cloud gateways typically don’t meet the needs of enterprise network and DevOps teams for integration
  • The different ways in which cloud providers handle the same networking concepts create management challenges, particularly in multi-cloud environments

Similarly, Gartner’s definition of this emerging market is similar to Alkira’s definition of cloud Network infrastructure as-a-Service (NaaS): “Cloud networking software enables the design, deployment and operation of a network within multiple cloud environments…including public clouds, ‘private clouds’ [enterprise data centers] and distributed cloud/edge locations. These products enable consistent networking policy, network security, governance and network visibility across multiple cloud environments via a single point of management. These products address traffic routing, secure ingress/egress, and integrate with available services…[and] are delivered as software [or] as a service.”

The report identifies the major pain point for customers in terms that are also familiar to anyone who has been listening to our message in the past three years: while it is relatively easy to connect to the cloud, enterprises find that once they get inside the cloud it is “difficult to add feature depth and scalability that many network teams are accustomed to”.

As Gartner observes, while networking technologies such as SD-WAN led the way “to the cloud”, a new generation of technology is required to continue the revolution “inside the cloud”.

Specifically, this means the ability to handle functions such as advanced routing, network segmentation and load balancing, where native cloud offerings often fall short. Among the other key criteria for enterprises’ evaluation of the cloud networking products are depth of integration and security, including segmentation and firewalling.

The report states that “breadth of cloud environments” is a key consideration for cloud networking buyers, but notes that many enterprises are prioritising single cloud implementation to postpone the complexities of multi-cloud networking.

Alkira already meets three of the main use cases identified by Gartner for cloud networking.

  • More than three-quarters of respondents are already working with multiple providers and anticipate growing multi-cloud workloads. They want management consistency across all environments. Alkira leverages the native functionality of each cloud but provides a single view and end to end visibility across all environments.
  • Customers with hybrid cloud networks that integrate public clouds and on-premises systems are “massively underserved” today, according to Gartner. It claims that between 10% and 15% of enterprises have hybrid networks but fewer than 100 operate a single network stack. Alkira provides a virtual cloud backbone that unifies on-prem and cloud environments regardless of underlying hardware and connection types providing a solution to the problem of hybrid cloud networks today and a clear evolutionary path for enterprises looking to unwind existing investments in network services and hardware.
  • Even enterprises that have opted for a single-cloud strategy could benefit from public cloud enhancement. This is Gartner’s term for cloud networking services that compensate for weaknesses in the native technical capabilities of the public clouds, such as advanced routing and security. Alkira provides just this kind of enhancement backed up by SLAs that are frequently missing from public cloud providers’ offerings.

Alkira warmly endorses Gartner’s recommendations to customers evaluating cloud networking solutions.

They include focusing on solutions with strong security (either the provider’s own or integration with third parties); choosing vendors whose services are not manacled to proprietary hardware; avoiding fork-lifting existing data center networks into the cloud; seeking vendors that provide consistency across clouds; and preferring vendors with as-a-service delivery and consumption models.

Alkira was founded on the belief that cloud networking is the missing link in enterprise digital transformation strategies. We’re delighted to see that leading analysts share our vision of this important emerging market and is grateful for Gartner’ shout out to Alkira in this report.

Download the full Gartner Market Guide for Cloud Networking here and take a test drive with Alkira.