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Cloud Networking vs. Traditional Data Networks

What is Cloud Networking?

Cloud networking leverages cloud-based services to deploy a corporate network, connecting an organization’s employees, resources, and applications. This shift from using private network hardware components to virtual ones allows organizations to rely on third-party cloud service providers for networking hardware and infrastructure management. This transition not only simplifies network management but also enhances efficiency, allowing network administrators to focus on optimizing configurations​.

Cloud Networking vs. Traditional Data Center Networking

Unlike traditional data center networking that relies on physical infrastructure within an organization’s premises, cloud networking utilizes virtual network components and services hosted in the cloud. This fundamental difference enables cloud networking to offer unparalleled scalability, security, and efficiency. Traditional setups often involve significant capital investment and complex management, while cloud networking offers a more flexible and cost-effective solution by using virtual resources that can be scaled or modified as needed​​​.

Key Benefits of Cloud Networking:

  • Efficiency and Cost Reduction: Cloud networking reduces the need for physical hardware and simplifies network management, leading to significant cost savings and increased operational efficiency.
  • Scalability: It allows for quick and easy scaling of network resources, enabling organizations to adapt to changing needs without the heavy investments associated with traditional networking.
  • Enhanced Security: Leveraging cloud providers’ economies of scale, cloud networking benefits from state-of-the-art infrastructure and security measures, offering robust protection for enterprise data.
  • Improved Monitoring and Maintenance: Cloud networking provides comprehensive visibility into network traffic and simplifies network management, eliminating the need for physical infrastructure maintenance​.

Who should care about Cloud Networking?

Organizations looking to enhance their network’s scalability, security, and efficiency should consider cloud networking. It’s particularly beneficial for businesses requiring flexible and rapid scaling of their network infrastructure to support varying workloads and those looking to reduce the complexity and cost of network management.

  • Cloud Architects and Operations Teams: While your focus is often on applications, a well-architected cloud network architecture will make your life much simpler. Be wary of data center architecture extensions positioned as cloud networking and understand that there are networking limitations and challenges Cloud providers will avoid bringing up and which are not obvious in small or single cloud designs.
  • Network Architects, Engineers, and Operations Teams: A DIY approach can work, but it’s likely to be difficult and costly to build, maintain, and modify. Take the time to understand what a modern cloud networking platform can offer.
  • Security Architects, SecOps, and Corporate Compliance Teams: Centralized, consistent security policies, enforcement, and auditing across single or multiple cloud networks significantly reduce risk. Take the time to understand how cloud networking and security have evolved for the cloud.
  • DevOps Teams: Infrastructure as code automation is critical for DevOps teams to achieve the speed and agility applications teams need from their networking and security counterparts. Cloud networking offers a radical departure from traditional networking and security operational models and allows seamless integration into enterprise DevOps CI/CD pipelines.

Myths & Misconceptions of Cloud Networking

Multi-Cloud Networking – Connecting to the Cloud vs. Cloud Networking

As enterprises leverage multiple public clouds driven by customer requirements, acquisitions, or simply because some business-critical applications operate better in one cloud versus the other, cloud networking is multi-cloud networking, it is important to recognize the difference between networking to clouds and cloud networking.

Many data center-centric technologies and services are designed to connect branch offices to data centers or data centers to other data centers. Examples include SD-WAN, private connectivity providers such as Equinix and Megaport, or SASE offerings such as Palo Alto Networks and Zscaler market their solutions as “multi-cloud” or cloud networking, meaning they connect to multiple clouds but stop at each cloud’s edge. True cloud networking is software-based networking, security, and operational services, that operate within multiple regions of a single cloud; from on-prem data centers, branch offices, and remote users to the cloud; and between multiple public clouds. Cloud networking delivers a consistent and repeatable network and security architecture and offers enterprise-class operational visibility in the cloud, while also supporting connections to enterprise investments in traditional data center technologies, such as SD-WAN.

Native Cloud Constructs Don’t Exactly Do Everything You Need

Cloud service providers will tell you that they provide everything and anything you need for networking in the cloud. Simply not true. There are significant limitations and challenges around routing, traffic engineering, operational visibility, control, and multi-cloud consistency you need to be aware of. Evaluate a cloud network platform that leverages and controls native cloud networking constructs, but adds a superset of advanced services, operational visibility, and control, even in a single cloud, and provides a multi-cloud network architecture allowing your team to be multi-cloud ready.

Data Center to the Cloud or Cloud to the Data Center

As the center of gravity for enterprise applications shifts from the data center to the cloud, architecture and operational models must change. Traditional vendors will position extensions of data center technologies and operating models as the best approach for the cloud or a transition to the cloud. Forward-thinking cloud and network architects recognize that their company’s future is heavily weighted to applications and data being in the cloud, on cloud networking, rather than in on-premises data centers, on data center networks. Expect a dramatic shift in perspective as cloud services, such as Amazon Outposts, expand from the cloud back to the data center, where needed, and bring the cloud operational models on-premises, rather than in the other direction.

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