Cisco Systems and Google on April 21 announced something big–really big. The two technology titans announced their intent to develop the industry’s first application-centric multi-cloud network fabric called the Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud.
This isn’t the first time Google and Cisco have teamed up. The two companies have been very active in the development of Kubernetes, Istio and a number of other areas. The goal is to make it easier for customers to run Google Cloud Platform (GCP) on a Cisco network, and this announcement follows the same path.
What the heck is an application-centric multi-cloud network fabric? At a high level, it’s an automated solution that makes sure application performance is optimized and secured across the enterprise network. Specifically, customers will have the ability to share service-level agreement settings, security policies, compliance data and more to ensure a consistent user experience regardless of where the application is running or where the user is.
Businesses are deploying hybrid, multi-clouds
The partnership is geared toward customers who have or are planning to deploy a hybrid multi-cloud strategy, which is most organizations. A supportive data point from my research is that well over 80% of organizations have embraced the concept of hybrid, multi-cloud, although not all are there yet. At one time, Google was steadfast in its opinion that the world would move to all public cloud. It had a fundamental belief that all customers would want to run IT the Google way, which is one of the reasons it got out of the cloud blocks as slow as it did.
But then Thomas Kurian replaced Diane Greene as GCP CEO, and one of his mandates was to actually listen to customers (shocker!). Once the company started doing that, it quickly realized most customers do want a hybrid environment, which is why GCP created Anthos. Anthos is an open hybrid and multi-cloud application platform that enables users to modernize their existing applications, build new ones, and run them anywhere.
eWEEK Editor Chris Preimesberger discusses this story with author Zeus Kerravala, a leading networking and security analyst and regular columnist, on this eWEEK eSpeaks YouTube Zoom chat.
However, like most things in life, when it comes to hybrid cloud, one size does not fit all, because there are multiple ways to go hybrid. The joint platform will enable customers to optimize their application stack by distributing the workloads or application component to the location that makes the most sense.
As an example, a customer could leave data in the private cloud and run the AI/ML algorithms in the cloud. Or an application developer could create an application in a private cloud and then run it in public to optimize costs. Another use case is an application where specific components that require the highest levels of security run on premises. There’s no right answer, but customers need choice.
The network is critical to application performance and security
The thing that connects all of these applications is the network, but it needs to do more than connect. The network needs to act like a fabric and be able to discover applications, identify specific attributes and dynamically adjust for user experience. Similarly, applications need to have the intelligence to change as the business requires while maintaining the highest levels of availability, security and compliance.
In short, networks need to be smarter about applications and the apps need to be more network aware –hence the Google and Cisco partnership.
Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud ties the network to applications
Through the partnership, the two companies will tightly integrate Cisco SD-WAN with Google Cloud. This will allow network attributes to cross the network boundary between the enterprise network and the Google Cloud. For example, a customer could create a network segment that will follow network traffic across the private and public cloud creating one set of policies to manage. Without it, a customer would set up a segmentation scheme on premises and then another in the cloud and manage them independently, leading to lots of errors and a sub-optimal design.
Cisco currently has the market-leading SD-WAN solution and now, through the partnership, the reach of the solution will extend the network off premises and into the cloud. Also, customers can use Cisco’s vManage as a single pane of glass to manage the entire WAN, including cloud connectivity. The tool can be used to optimize and secure connectivity and simplify operations through automation.
Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud offers customers the following benefits:
- Application aware SD-WAN policy automation based on application data. A good use case for this is automating SD-WAN path selection based on network and service telemetry. This ensures the apps that need the bandwidth, such as collaboration and video, are always prioritized over others.
- Context-aware access control for applications hosted in Google cloud for security and compliance. This can seamlessly extend enterprise security policies to the applications hosted in Google Cloud.
- Automation of Cisco SD-WAN transit networks over the Google Cloud backbone enabling on demand provisioning and autoscaling of bandwidth. This can be particularly useful as bandwidth intensive video traffic continues to rise from people working from home.
Customers are modernizing their applications through the use of containers and hybrid cloud platforms. This is making running applications more complex as application components can exists anywhere across the hybrid multi-cloud. The reality is that, for most organizations, the network is the business it needs to be modernized and brought into alignment with cloud principals. The Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud can be that fabric that ties together the modernized network with current application architectures. Cisco’s most recent tagline is the “bridge to possible” and now, with Google, it has built a long overdue bridge between the network and applications.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.