A multi-cloud environment spreads computing resources, data, and applications across at least two public platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Microsoft Azure. This kind of environment requires a highly complex network architecture to handle communications from the home office (or primary data center) to each public cloud, and to connect multiple clouds, microservices, and clusters within each cloud.
Multi-cloud networking presents many unique challenges that require modern, software-defined solutions. This blog post will describe the most common multi-cloud networking challenges before explaining how a software-based approach can help you overcome them.
Multi-Cloud Networking Challenges and How to Overcome Them
There are four major multi-cloud networking challenges you must overcome to get the most out of your public cloud services. However, these challenges have the same solution: Multi-Cloud Networking Software, or MCNS. As defined by Gartner, multi-cloud networking software is used to design, deploy, and operate multi-cloud networks using software-defined networking (SDN) and centralized orchestration. MCNS also enables consistent network policies, security, governance, and visibility across a multi-cloud architecture.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each multi-cloud networking challenge so we can discuss how MCNS helps organizations overcome these hurdles.
Each public cloud vendor constructs its network differently, with unique naming conventions, configurations, functionality, etc. These networks generally aren’t designed to work well with each other because many vendors have a vested interest in keeping you locked within their cloud. That can make it challenging to achieve true cross-cloud application and workload distribution.
MCNS provides a common platform from which to orchestrate the entire multi-cloud network, including communication between and within the clouds. It abstracts the unique complexities of each cloud’s native networking construct, which both simplifies management processes and helps overcome any limitations that might otherwise prevent efficient communication between clouds. Simply put, MCNS provides one common multi-cloud network to orchestrate, so you don’t have to learn, manage, and troubleshoot multiple unique network constructs.
Visibility is notoriously challenging in a cloud environment, and that’s multiplied when you run workloads across several different clouds. Each cloud vendor provides differing levels of visibility, and one cloud may not have insight into what’s happening in another. In addition, each cloud has its own visibility tooling, leaving administrators without a big-picture view of the multi-cloud network.
Multi-cloud networking software often includes centralized visibility tooling with consistent insight into each cloud and its connections. Instead of logging into multiple monitoring systems, administrators can view the entire architecture from one place. This consolidation saves time, allows teams to work more efficiently, and ensures there are no gaps in your visibility.
Each cloud provider has built-in controls for user authorization and privilege management, so a multi-cloud environment requires the maintenance of multiple user access systems. That makes it difficult to ensure consistency across clouds, meaning accounts may end up over-privileged in one cloud or another.
In addition, data governance, which is crucial to data security, privacy, and compliance, is difficult to track and maintain in a multi-cloud environment. Cloud data needs to be accessible to other cloud applications and processes without exposing it to malicious actors. Plus, the above-mentioned visibility issues often leave administrators without an efficient way to detect security issues and policy violations across clouds.
One of the primary goals of MCNS is to ensure consistent security, policies, governance, and visibility across the entire multi-cloud network. A centralized MCNS platform allows administrators to manage account access for all clouds in one place, enabling multi-cloud security best practices like RBAC (role-based access control) and PoLP (principle of least privilege). Multi-cloud network software also facilitates centralized creation, management, and enforcement of data governance policies to protect the data stored in and transferred between public clouds. By pulling all this functionality away from individual clouds and into a centralized management platform, MCNS ensures consistent and comprehensive security coverage across all your clouds.
Cloud Talent Gap
Earlier in this post, we mentioned that each cloud platform is unique, with different capabilities, naming conventions, and configurations. That means an expert in AWS networking won’t necessarily be an expert in GCP or Azure, and vice versa. Therefore, theoretically you’ll need to hire specialized engineers to manage each cloud in your multi-cloud architecture. However, it’s very challenging to recruit and retain such experts in today's labor market.
By abstracting networking from each cloud provider and centralizing management behind a single pane of glass, MCNS makes building, managing, and troubleshooting the network the same for every public cloud. That means engineers only need to learn one common system, reducing the number of experts needed to manage a multi-cloud network. In addition, a unified MCNS platform fosters easier knowledge transfers within and across teams, improving collaboration and ensuring consistent coverage if an employee gets sick or leaves the company.
More Tips for Adopting Multi-Cloud Networking Software
While MCNS overcomes many multi-cloud networking challenges, it often presents its own difficulties. Multi-cloud networking software can be expensive in terms of the purchase price and the resources (and time) needed to implement it. MCNS solutions are also fairly complex to manage, so you’ll need to invest in training for your network teams to use this software effectively.