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Embracing the future: The case for distributed cloud networking

Traditional centralized IT models no longer meet modern enterprise demands in today’s fast-paced digital era. The shift towards distributed cloud networking has become essential, driven by three critical transformations: cloud application, workforce and edge transformation. These changes highlight the inefficiencies of the old hub-and-spoke architecture and underscore the need for a new approach.

The IT trifecta encompasses three transformative areas that are reshaping enterprise networks and driving the need for a new approach to networking.

  • Cloud application transformation: The migration to public cloud applications, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, requires enterprises to optimize applications for cloud capabilities. Adopting microservices, CI/CD, and serverless computing has enabled faster application evolution and scalability.
  • Workforce transformation: The pandemic has entrenched the “work from anywhere” model, demanding robust and secure connectivity solutions. Zero Trust security models ensure seamless and secure access to applications and data from any location, maintaining productivity and compliance.
  • Edge transformation: Edge computing supports latency-sensitive, high-bandwidth applications by processing data close to its source. This is crucial for artificial intelligence (AI) data analytics, IoT and other real-time applications. Integration of 5G technology further enhances edge capabilities, providing better performance and reliability.

Challenges with legacy approaches
Traditional hub-and-spoke architectures are inadequate for modern needs. They struggle with cloud and SaaS access inefficiencies, resulting in poor application performance due to traffic backhauling through centralized data centers. Remote connectivity via traditional VPNs is often slow and unreliable, hindering productivity for a distributed workforce.

Moreover, the separate networking and security stacks in traditional models complicate management and increase operational costs. Hardware-centric networks lack the agility and scalability required to support dynamic cloud environments and evolving business demands. While beneficial for branch networking, SD-WAN solutions do not scale well for the enterprise WAN core. Managed services from traditional communication providers lack the necessary elasticity and automation. Additionally, public cloud service provider networking often fails to effectively service multicloud environments, leading to inconsistent policy enforcement and security challenges.

The Solution: Distributed cloud networking
Distributed cloud networking represents a significant evolution in enterprise WAN architecture, building on existing and new technologies to form a cohesive solution designed to meet modern enterprise demands. The three technologies that are converging are the following:

  • Secure access service edge (SASE): SASE integrates SD-WAN and security service edge (SSE) into a single platform, merging networking and security for distributed branches and remote users. It ensures consistent enforcement of security policies across all traffic sources and destinations, simplifying management and enhancing security.
  • WAN as a service (WANaaS): WANaaS in this context differs from traditional service provider offerings that go by the same name. It extends the cloud consumption model to the enterprise WAN, embracing the on-demand and elastic characteristics of public cloud services. This approach provides modern enterprises with the necessary elasticity, agility, and cost-efficiency, allowing dynamic scalability and improved performance.
  • Multicloud networking software: Multicloud networking simplifies managing and integrating multiple cloud environments.
  • Harmonizing networking across different clouds reduces complexity and ensures consistent policy, visibility and security. Multicloud networking supports seamless operation across various cloud platforms by leveraging software-defined networking principles.

Key characteristics of distributed cloud networking

  • Distributed cloud networking builds on these converged technologies to create a unified solution that addresses traditional approaches’ limitations. Key characteristics include the following:
  • Service-centric approach: Focusing on delivering network and security services through software and cloud-based solutions, rather than relying on physical hardware, allows for greater flexibility and scalability.
  • Context-based visibility and analytics: Real-time insights into network performance, security events, and user activity enable proactive issue resolution, performance optimization and enhanced security.
  • Automation and orchestration: Automated workflows and orchestration tools streamline network management, reducing operational costs and improving efficiency.
  • Integrated security: Embedding security into the network fabric ensures consistent protection across all environments — on-premises, cloud and edge. This approach supports zero-trust principles for robust security.
  • Elasticity and scalability: Dynamic adjustment of network resources based on real-time demands ensures optimal performance and cost-efficiency, which are crucial for handling varying workloads and supporting business growth.
  • Seamless multicloud integration: Seamless integration of multiple cloud environments reduces complexity, ensuring consistent policy enforcement and streamlined operations, leveraging the best features of various cloud providers.

While distributed cloud networking is still in its early stages, Dell’Oro is closely monitoring a variety of vendors entering this arena . Vendors are approaching distributed cloud networking from five distinct backgrounds: traditional networking, SASE, public cloud providers, multicloud networking software and WANaaS.

The future of distributed cloud networking is incredibly promising, propelled by the essential needs for agility, security and scalability that the distributed model naturally supports. While there are some headwinds, such as resistance to change and the complexities of integrating new solutions into existing infrastructures, these challenges are surmountable. With proactive strategies and innovations, the path to widespread adoption and success in distributed cloud networking is bright.

Conclusion: Embrace distributed cloud networking
Distributed cloud networking represents the future of enterprise WAN architecture, offering a robust, flexible and secure solution that addresses the limitations of traditional approaches. By converging technologies like SASE, WANaaS and multicloud networking into a unified framework, distributed cloud networking provides the agility, security and scalability needed to thrive in today’s digital landscape.

As you consider adopting this transformative technology, reflect on your organization’s unique requirements and the potential benefits of a more resilient and adaptable network. Embracing distributed cloud networking is not just a strategic move—it’s an essential step towards unlocking new opportunities for innovation and growth. Take the leap and position your enterprise for success in the digital age. SDX central

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