Open Networking in a Multi-Cloud World

Digital transformation, multi-cloud adoption and the addition of IoT endpoints are driving the requirements for new network architectures. Software-based networks are an essential component of agile IT systems as they provide improved scalability, interoperability and automation. Networks in the data center, branch and campus (each with their unique requirements) will need to be upgraded/redesigned to support the requirements of a multi-cloud world.

The Rise of Multi-Cloud

Wikipedia defines multi-cloud as the use of two or more infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platforms – typically Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. In practice, most organizations now have several cloud platforms, including their own data centers, an IaaS service (or 2) and multiple SaaS providers. Large data flows and low latency requirements of IoT architectures are driving demands for new mini-data center at the edge (MEC).

IT organizations need to provide their developers and end-users the best platform to run unique applications regardless of platform or location.  And, they must enable their network to provide a quality, secure user experience for all their users regardless of their location – campus, branch or remote.

Benefits of Software Driven Networking

Software driven networking provides the abstraction from monolithic network hardware and provides IT organizations the flexibility to design and manage their network to support a multi-cloud world. Software based networks offer the following capabilities:

  • Hardware platform independence including the ability to run on Intel, white box switches and other hardware platforms
  • Open and Programmable: Multi-vendor interoperability, standards-based with open APIs
  • Automated provisioning, management and orchestration
  • Improved security via microsegmentation and network traffic intelligence

Networking Requirements of Multi-Cloud

The advent of multi-cloud architectures impacts each place of the network (data center, branch and campus) in different ways. The sections below provide details.

Data Center

IT organizations need to modernize their existing data center to support legacy applications and host DevOp style new applications on their private cloud.  Despite the popularity of public cloud, there are a multitude of applications that will reside inside the organization for reasons of cost, security, performance/latency and compliance. The data center network needs the following capabilities:

  • Rapid provisioning of resources for new applications (e.g. containers)
  • High performance at scale
  • Ability to easily and securely migrate data and applications between clouds (public and private)

Software based networks enable data center agility via programmability, enhanced management and automation and integration with associated software/appliances such as security, application acceleration and management systems.


SD-WAN is becoming the primary on-ramp for users in distributed organizations (at the branch or other remote locations) to access the cloud-based applications and resources. Software networking is driving innovation among SD-WAN technology providers to support improved routing, management and security.   SD-WAN technology must be integrated with leading IaaS providers, prioritize real time traffic and be able to identify traffic flows to/from a range of popular SaaS platforms.


The campus network provides wired (ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) connectivity to PCs, BYOD, video cameras, physical security devices and IoT sensors. The campus network must provide fast, low latency access to applications and data on any cloud platform (local or remote). The identity and security of the variety of endpoints is an important requirement for the campus network.

Recommendations for IT Leaders

The ability to place workloads on the most appropriate platforms is critical for agility and cost in the modern enterprise. Most organizations will be running applications on hypervisors and containers across multiple platforms, including internal data center, several IaaS providers and accessing SaaS applications. The network needs to respond to the emerging multi-cloud requirements with the ability to monitor, adjust and secure traffic flows.

Building the modern software driven network can be challenging due to the plethora of options, lack of clear blue prints and emerging standards. IT organizations need to carefully evaluate their multi-cloud requirements and migrate/upgrade their networks accordingly. The complexity means that picking the right suppliers/partners for the network remains critical.


Author's Bio

Lee Doyle

Principal Analyst at Doyle Research