The Cloud-Native Network: What It Means and Why It Matters

April 11, 2019

It’s no secret that CIOs want their networks to be more agile, better able to accommodate new requirements of the digital business. SD-WAN has made significant advancements in that regard. And, yet, it’s also equally clear that SD-WAN alone cannot futureproof enterprise networks.

Mobile users, cloud resources, security services — all are critical to the digital business and yet none are native to SD-WAN. Companies must invest in additional infrastructure for those capabilities. Skilled security and networking talent are still needed to run those networks, expertise that’s often in short supply. Operational costs, headaches, and delays are incurred when upgrading and maintaining security and networking appliances.

Outsourcing networking to a telco managed network service does not solve the problem. Capital, staffing, and operational costs continue to exist, only now marked-up and charged back to the customer. And, to make matters worse, enterprises lose visibility into and control over the traffic traversing the managed network services.

How then can you prepare your network for the digital business of today — and tomorrow? Cloud-native networks offer a way forward.

Like cloud-native application development, cloud-native networks run the bulk of their route calculation, policy-enforcement, and security inspections  — the guts of the network — on a purpose-built software platform designed to take advantage of the cloud’s attributes. The software platform is multitenant by design operating on off-the-shelf servers capable of breakthrough performance previously only possible with custom hardware. Eliminating proprietary appliances changes the technical, operational, and fiscal characteristics of enterprise networks.

5 Attributes of Cloud-Native Network Services

To better understand their impact, consider the five attributes a provider’s software and networking platform must meet to be considered cloud-native: multitenancy, scalability, velocity, efficiency, and ubiquity.

Multitenancy

With cloud-native networks, customers share the underlying infrastructure with the necessary abstraction to provide each with a private network experience. The provider is responsible for maintaining and scaling the underlying infrastructure. Like cloud compute and storage, cloud-native networks have no idle appliances; multitenancy allows providers to maximize their underlying infrastructure.

Scalability

As cloud services, cloud-native networks carry no practical scaling limitation. The platform accommodates new traffic loads or new requirements. The software stack can instantly take advantage of additional compute, storage, memory, or networking resources. As such, enabling compute-intensive features, such as SSL decryption, does not impact service functionality.

Velocity

By developing their own software platforms, cloud-native network providers can rapidly innovate, making new features and capabilities instantly available. All customers across all regions benefit from the most current feature set. Troubleshooting takes less time since support and platform development teams are bound together. And as the core functionality is in software, cloud-native networks can expand to new regions in hours and days not months.

Efficiency

Cloud-native network design promote efficiency that lead to higher network quality at lower costs. Platform ownership reduces third-party license fees, and nominal support costs. Leveraging the massive build-out of IP infrastructure avoids the costs telcos incurred constructing and maintaining physical transmission networks. A smart, software overlay, monitors the underlying network providers and selects the optimum one for each packet. The result: carrier-grade network at an unmatched price/performance.

Ubiquity

Like today’s digital business, the enterprise network must be available everywhere, accessible from many edges supporting physical, cloud, and mobile resources. Features parity across regions is critical for maximum efficiency. Access to the cloud-native network should be using physical and virtual appliances, mobile clients, and third-party IPsec compatible edges. This way, truly one network can connect any resource, anywhere.

A Revolutionary, Not Evolutionary, Shift in Networking

By meeting all five criteria, cloud-native networks avoid the cost overhead and stagnant process of traditional service providers. Such benefits cannot be gained by merely porting software or hosting an appliance in the cloud. It’s a network that must be built with the DNA of cloud service from scratch. In this, cloud-native networks are a revolution in network architecture and design.

 

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Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield is a veteran of IT industry. He’s spent more than 20 years as an award-winning journalist and independent technology consultant. Today, he serves as a secure networking evangelist for Cato Networks.