Multicloud networking: Why it matters — and why it’s so complicated

It is said that 2021 will see a considerable rise in multicloud adoption, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it in context with the current situation in the world. With an unprecedented amount of uncertainty in the air, the last thing organizations are looking to do is invest a lot of money on a single vendor, get locked in for a couple of years, or invest in proprietary technology. This makes the concept of a multicloud extremely lucrative, with one major problem, multicloud networking.

Network-as-a-service

Multicloud networking is a pain, straight and simple, even for people with networking experience. Trying to tie two clouds together takes you into a gray area or “no man’s land” where your public cloud’s native networking capabilities just don’t cut it anymore. Where public cloud capabilities end, however, is where the opportunities for startups begin, and that’s what we see a lot of in this particular sector. One of the highlights from earlier this year was Alkira, a multicloud networking startup that raised $30 million in its Series A funding.

We should point out that Alkira was launched by the co-founders of Viptela, one of the original SD-WAN vendors. (Viptela was acquired by Cisco in 2017 for $610 million.) Alkira aims to simplify multicloud networking by providing users with a virtual multicloud router that can be set up in under an hour. This virtual router is called Cloud Service Exchange (CSX). It enables users to deploy a multicloud network that not only gives you a single control plane for your entire multicloud network but also manages it for you. Alkira also connects with on-premises facilities.

Secure SD-WAN for multicloud

A lot has been said about how security needs to be baked into solutions from the ground up and not added later as an afterthought. Despite that, it’s not very often that we see security-driven solutions in fields other than security. Fortinet takes a security-first approach to multicloud networking and provides users with secure SD-WAN services that can be deployed at home, on campus, or on multicloud. While the emphasis here is on security, a recent report named Fortinet the fastest growing SD-WAN vendor with a 240 percent year-over-year growth.

It’s worth mentioning that the multicloud option wasn’t always part of Fortinet’s arsenal and has a lot to do with its acquisition of cloud security and networking innovator OPAQ in July. John Maddison, chief marketing officer, was quoted stating the acquisition has made Fortinet the complete SASE framework. For the uninitiated, SASE or secure access service edge is a security-first approach to networking that connects all edges, including public clouds, on-premises facilities, mobile phones, IoT devices, and more.

Flexible service edge

Another interesting startup that raised $30 million in its Series D round of funding in September last year, bringing its total funding close to $100 million, is 128 Technology. Earlier this year in May, 128 Technology announced version 4 of its Session Smart Router that helps users seamlessly connect to multiple cloud platforms, on-premises locations, remote work, IoT, and 5G. The actual solution is made up of two components, the Sessions Smart Router, which is a virtual router, and the 128T Conductor, which is a policy and management engine.

In August, 128 Technology unveiled its latest offering to the world of multicloud networking in the form of the Flexible Service Edge, FSE, which, much like the SASE model, is security-driven. Unlike the SASE model, however, FSE is a tunnel-free, software solution that is programmable, distributed, and mobile. FSE is aimed at service providers looking to provide customers with a consistent and economic multicloud experience that begins with managed networking services and can easily be upgraded to IoT, SD-Branch, and SD-WAN.

Multicloud visibility and networking


Visibility is an important part of networking across distributed environments, and FireScope, an IT service management offerings company, aims to deliver just that. FireScope is a multi-tenant cloud platform for service providers that helps them deliver speed and transparency across everything from apps to mobile devices to remote workloads. With over a decade of experience in asset discovery, intelligence, and monitoring, FireScope’s offerings, which include an integrated view of the entire stack, and in-depth multicloud visibility, made it quite a tempting prospective acquisition.

That’s exactly what happened earlier in July when Matrix42, a workplace management solution provider based out of Frankfurt, Germany, acquired FireScope for an undisclosed amount. Oliver Bendig, CEO of Matrix42, was quoted explaining how the digital workplace has evolved into a mixed environment spanning on-prem locations as well as multicloud, and how “this makes FireScope technology an ideal addition” to Matrix42’s product portfolio. This is something we see a lot of this year with organizations essentially filling up gaps in their portfolio by acquiring startups whose strengths are their weaknesses.

Filling in the blanks in multicloud networking

Another cloud network provider using acquisitions to fill in the gaps and up its multicloud game is Arista Networks, which just rolled out updates to its multicloud networking software last month. While CloudEOS, a multicloud virtual router that connects AWS, Azure, and GCP, was rolled out late last year. The new updates add an edge factor with CloudEos Edge that’s better suited to support edge computing, on-premises, as well as hybrid cloud resources. CloudEos Edge also integrates with Arista’s cloud management solution, CloudVision, and is available in a pay-as-you-go format.

To further strengthen its multicloud portfolio, Arista Networks acquired Big Switch Networks, a pioneer in network monitoring and SDN, in February this year. This was a major deal for Arista as Big Switch had several rumored suitors, including Cisco, Dell, Gigamon, and Juniper Networks. Two interesting multicloud capabilities that have come through the Big Switch acquisition are the Converged Cloud Fabric and DANZ (data analyzer), which are now a part of CloudVision. This is yet another example of network providers acquiring startups to become more relevant in the multicloud networking market.

Mix-and-match clouds

Anyone who has ever gone through the trouble of setting up a single cloud can imagine how complex tying two together would be, so why do it? No two clouds are the same, and different business units have different requirements, so while one may be best suited to Azure, another may require Google’s AI/ML services. Additionally, different cloud providers have different strengths as well as different price points, so going multicloud could also just be a matter of economics. What it boils down to is the freedom to mix and match services from different cloud providers in a flexible manner that suits your purpose, and multicloud networks hold the key to that freedom.

Multicloud networking: Follow the money

“Follow the money” is advice that especially rings true in reference to technology and the direction it’s headed. Right now, the money’s pointing at multicloud networking. Everyone wants multicloud, but hardly anyone is prepared for the network complexity. Additionally, the VPN and firewall model is reaching its limits with the current work-from-home scenario, creating an unprecedented demand for alternate solutions. This is where several startups are stepping up to the plate and trying and filling the gaps left open by cloud providers, and if mergers, funding, and acquisitions are any indicators of things to come, this space is going to see a lot of action come 2021.

Featured image: publicdomainpictures.net

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