Automation and the Network of Clouds

The Network continues to evolve toward the Cloud with the creation of a modern ecosystem consisting of Public Cloud providers and Network Specialists.  The evolution of the Public Cloud has matured from the first years which consisted of a land grab whereby CIOs were pitched AWS as a destination for all of their workloads; to the current cloud landscape which looks more like a set of commodity products (IaaS, DB, ADC) with a growing set of differentiated services and offerings (AI/ML, GKE, Big Data), as well as SaaS vendors providing specific applications and network services (Zscaler, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Cato).  The connectivity associated with these cloud services coupled with Enterprise Applications is creating a priority market for how to provide a connected ecosystem to efficiently and securely offer these transformational services.

The Networking community has had an interesting response to this market evolution.  Vendors that cater to the Network Team (Cisco, Juniper, SilverPeak) have put the Branch as the center of this transformation ‘Branch-Out’ with SD-WAN offers.  Vendors who cater to the Cloud teams have obviously had a ‘Cloud-Out’ approach (Aviatrix, Alkira).  Public Cloud vendors who originally tried to build a walled garden understand the need to provide uniform, multi-cloud interfaces (AWS Transit Gateway, Azure Virtual WAN).  One thing is clear – this is the battleground for network innovation and CIOs need to have a cohesive strategy.

CIOs have historically created two distinct groups within their organizations:

  • Network Team – This group focuses on traditional route/switch Data Center technologies coupled with Branch and Campus responsibilities. Local application responsibilities would include Load Balancers, Firewall, & DDI (DNS, IPAM). 
  • Cloud/Platform Team – This group focuses on AWS and Azure with a responsibility to applications which have been migrated to the cloud primarily as part of a digital transformation. They view the Application developers as their customers and provide cloud infrastructure starting with a lift/shift mentality moving towards a cloud-native strategy.

In the past, these distinct groups have made a lot of sense as the skillsets and requirements for these two teams have historically been very different. The evolution of the Cloud market to a highly distributed set of services has created a need to either merge these teams together or provide a common platform to facilitate the integration and automation needs for the digitally-transformed enterprise.

Break Down Barriers Between Cloud and Network Teams

The introduction of SD-WAN and Multi-Cloud are the first set of services which require the CIO to transform their operations.  The reality is that digitally transformed businesses will rely on a large set of cloud and SaaS services which will require a robust connectivity and security strategy.  The traditional concepts of separating Network and Cloud concepts will no longer be a valid operational model.

While Lines of Business don’t work for the CIO, they are taking a stronger role in application development and being the ultimate user of this infrastructure.  The question is how to provide these users with self-service and Network-as-a-Service capabilities that allow them the flexibility to move at the speed and needs of digital transformation and their business.  Governance and Best Practices will be the preferred model for engaging the application teams in the management of infrastructure and networking services.

How Automation Platforms Like Itential Can Bridge the Gap

As businesses continue to expand toward leveraging cloud infrastructure, networking teams are propelled into needing to know how to provision and configure networking across not only disparate on-prem physical network infrastructure but also cloud network environments such as VPCs and VNets. There is a specialized skillset and a steep learning curve for connecting multiple types of devices, to multiple cloud environments that is not satisfied by manual provisioning. This complex challenge causes network management, application performance and compliance issues. Multi-cloud management highlights the need to adopt cloud constructs and drives network automation by providing a programmable network. By leveraging the right automation platform that can provide end- to-end automation through an API-first approach, connecting various domains to IT systems and platforms, both Cloud and Network teams can collaborate together to automate the Network of Clouds.

To learn more about extending network automation to cloud environments, join Itential and ONUG for our upcoming webinar on how to “Simplify Hybrid, Multi-Cloud networking with Intelligent Automation” on Wednesday, June 10 at 12 pm PT / 3 pm ET. During the webinar we’ll explore how the right automation platform can enable both Cloud and Network teams to collaborate together to automate the Network of Cloud and showcase live demos of the Itential Automation Platform. Click here to save your seat. 

Author's Bio

Chris Wade

Chris Wade serves as the co-founder & CTO of Itential, a network automation software company focused on simplifying and accelerating the adoption of network automation and transforming network operations practices. Prior to establishing Itential, Chris gained a wealth of experience in the SDN, NFV and OSS/BSS markets having led initiatives in this space for global organizations including Alcatel-Lucent, ReachView Technologies and Micromuse.