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How a Software-Defined Network Builds the Best Multi-Cloud

By: Alan Seal on October 22, 2019

Networking technology has undergone significant changes over the last decade. As organizations grow and upgrade their network infrastructure, they need to make sure they understand all of the options available to them to avoid being locked into a model that inhibits future flexibility. For many companies, migrating into a carrier-neutral colocation data center provides them with the opportunity to build the ideal network architecture that will allow them to scale and thrive. These facilities can provide a direct on-ramp to cloud services in a number of ways, but software-defined networks may be the most efficient means of building a high-performance multi-cloud environment.

What is Software-Defined Networking?

Software-defined networks (SDN) were developed in response to the challenges posed by the increasingly fragmented network architecture of the modern internet. Traditional networks were heavily dependent upon the hardware that managed physical connections. By separating the network control plane, which is the part of a router architecture draws and defines the network’s topology, from the forwarding plane, which decides what to do with data packets when they enter the network, SDN technology allows the network control to be directly programmable and centrally managed. Critically, this allowed organizations to simplify their network design with their own customizable software-defined networking controllers rather than having to use multiple vendor-specific devices and proprietary software.

Since SDN solutions are centrally managed and able to adjust dynamically to meet traffic needs, they are well-suited to organizations that demand maximum network flexibility. The architecture provides a comprehensive view of a network and allows users to configure routing and switching for improved performance and enhanced compatibility. Data centers are one of the key beneficiaries of this technology given the networking demands they regularly face. An IDC study expects that the data center SDN market will be worth $12 billion by 2022, a major increase from $5.15 billion in 2017.

Multi-Cloud Architecture

Many organizations have embraced cloud computing platforms to meet a variety of business needs. While some companies turn to cloud providers as part of a data storage strategy, others rely upon cloud-based software solutions to deliver their core services. On average, organizations use five separate cloud services. Some of these clouds are public and accessible by many other users, while others are private clouds that provide much greater security and control over data.

Managing these clouds effectively is increasingly a challenge for many companies. Different departments may utilize different clouds, and data that is stored in one cloud may need to be moved into another (and back again) without compromising security. It can be a difficult system to manage, which is why many data centers provide their customers with the tools to create a multi-cloud environment that ties everything together into a unified network that improves performance and reduces risk.

SDN Solutions for Multi-Cloud Deployments

Building those environments, however, is a major challenge. Establishing connections to each cloud provider can be costly to provision and difficult to manage in practice. Even if the technical aspects can be worked out, dealing with the pricing and billing systems of each cloud vendor can make it hard to reliably predict expenses. Each cloud potentially poses a security risk as well, forcing IT personnel to be on guard at all times and address issues in each unique cloud environment.

Fortunately, SDN architectures make it much easier to build a functional multi-cloud environment through a single platform. Rather than connecting an organization’s network to several cloud providers, it simply connects to an SDN that is already set up to integrate cloud services. An SDN multi-cloud environment allows users to make seamless cloud-to-cloud connections over a low-latency direct connection that bypasses the public internet for enhanced security.

For organizations dealing with challenges related to unreliable public internet, complex migrations, vendor lock-in, and provisioning delays, using an SDN provider to create their multi-cloud environment opens up a new world of possibilities. When combined with the services of a colocation data center, SDN technology makes it possible for even the smallest startup to have access to the expansive computing power once available to only the largest enterprises.

When assessing a colocation data center, companies that rely heavily upon cloud computing services would do well to review whether SDN services are included among the facility’s interconnection options. An SDN provider like Megaport makes it easier than ever before to build a flexible multi-cloud environment that can scale and transform with an organization’s evolving needs.

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