Reliance on cloud-native monitoring and visibility capabilities creates operational blind spots that force organizations to procure and operate third-party network management systems.
With the accelerating adoption of cloud and multi-cloud, the network is struggling to keep up with the agility demanded by cloud business needs.
Before discussing how Alkira Cloud Area Networking, dramatically changes the landscape, it is important to review in a little more detail the currently available options, so the contrast becomes even clearer.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Multi-Cloud Networking
It might be tempting for organizations to try building their own multi-cloud network using an in-house IT team with cloud and networking experience. With a complex or even moderately complex network and cloud environments, this can prove quite challenging.
Some organizations leverage colocation facilities and interconnection-oriented architectures to achieve the task of connecting on-premise locations to one or more public clouds. Provisioning of direct cloud connectivity through colocations requires first and foremost establishing a colocation footprint in all locations where such cloud connectivity is desired. For organizations not yet leveraging colocations, it means procuring rack space with power from the colocation provider, procuring, installing and configuring network and security gear in these facilities, extending corporate Wide Area Network (often times MPLS) into the colocations and of course procuring and configuring the direct cloud connectivity itself. Due to their complexity, it is not uncommon for these projects to consume many months or over a year in some cases. Needless to mention, there is not only high upfront cost, but also high operations cost to keep the network running.
Some organizations are looking into the cloud on-ramp capabilities of SD-WAN solutions. These solutions allow organizations to extend their deployed SD-WAN network into the public cloud. SD-WAN solutions oftentimes leverage AWS transit VPC or Azure HUB or similar capabilities in the case of other clouds. Some SD-WAN providers leverage the notion of cloud gateways for managed cloud on-ramp. All SD-WAN solutions are limited to establishing basic cloud connectivity. When it comes to inserting network services, defining and controlling security policies and security groups, requiring multi-gigabits per second throughput, these solutions fall short.
There also happen to be many mid-mile network providers claiming to offer multi-cloud networking solutions. The piecemeal approach offered by these providers at best compares with SD-WAN capabilities.
With any of the above approaches, organizations are required to gain a deep understanding of each individual cloud and understand the specifics and limits of each cloud provider’s capabilities. On top of that, learning how to provision third-party or cloud native security services and third-party or cloud native load balancers, as well as engineer and implement connectivity through those services in order to meet the desired use cases, becomes a monumental task.
What About Cloud Orchestration Tools?
Cloud orchestration tools are designed to assist organizations in orchestrating multi-cloud network connectivity leveraging cloud native constructs. Some such tools employ two elements – cloud controller and cloud gateway. Instead of using the cloud providers’ console, network engineers can use these controllers to orchestrate connectivity that they would otherwise do from the cloud provider’s console.
Network engineers leveraging cloud orchestration tools still have to have a deep understanding of the cloud providers’ networking capabilities, constructs, and limitations in certain cases. They still have to know and learn each cloud and understand the capabilities and functionality of a given cloud in order to meet each use case. Now engineers not only need to be well versed in each cloud but also need to build expertise in using such orchestration tools.
For example, consider the organization that has a need to provide multi-gigabit network connectivity into AWS.
For such a relatively high network throughput the options are to leverage either AWS Direct Connect and/or AWS Transit Gateway (TGW) based on the specific design scenario. Now, instead of provisioning AWS Direct Connect and/or AWS TGW from the AWS management console, organizations can leverage an orchestration tool. The use of the tool still requires obtaining an intimate knowledge of both AWS Direct Connect and AWS TGW operation in addition to learning how to operate the tool itself. Misconfiguration of the knobs in the tool will result in misconfiguration of AWS Direct Connect and AWS TGW, in the same way it would have happened had an organization leveraged AWS management console directly.
One can argue that in case of multiple public clouds, a cloud orchestration tool helps simplify cloud orchestration and operation. While it is true to a certain extent, the use of cloud orchestration tools does not remove the necessity of obtaining intimate knowledge of each individual public cloud, its capabilities and functionality to meet each use case.
What’s more, these vendors who sell multi-cloud orchestration tools and solutions offer their own certifications. How much simpler are they really making your life if you need certifications and coursework in order to be able to use their tools effectively?
WAN Evolution in the Multi-Cloud Era
Networking technologies are shaped by the IT environments of the day. MPLS was born before the cloud and served its purpose well in the late 1990s and early part of this century for virtual private network connectivity between data centers, branches, remote offices and campuses.