Here comes the supercloud: What does it mean for multi-cloud complexity?

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

A new concept for cloud networking aims to bring clarity to multi-cloud and bring the true aspirational path we were all promised. Except it’s not that new.

Say hello to the supercloud. This time last year, Lori MacVittie, distinguished engineer at F5, wrote for Network Computing around the results of the multi-cloud security and app delivery provider’s annual State of Application Strategy report. MacVittie, who has previously written for CloudTech, concluded that 99% of organisations were invested in multi-cloud; and of that number, 100% were having challenges with it, from consistent security, to migration, to app visibility.

The answer comes from a team of Cornell University researchers from as far back as 2016. It is a cloud architecture that ‘enables application migration as a service across different availability zones or cloud providers… provid[ing] interfaces to allocate, migrate, and terminate resources… and presents a homogeneous network to tie these resources together.’

In theory, per the academic definition, supercloud users are free to locate virtual machines to data centres across the world, including edge locations, regardless of owner and without complex reconfiguration. MacVittie clarifies this as seamless migration, consistent security, and optimal performance.

So what does this mean in business strategic terms? “Supercloud is the chance to be proactive and play the long game to ensure your business is set up to stay competitive for the future,” William Collins, principal architect at Alkira, tells CloudTech. “For the network, this creates a unique opportunity to simplify design and operations by employing a single fabric, or abstraction, that connects you to the cloud, across clouds, and to on-premises sites.”

Collins sees three key tenets for superclouds to adopt all the current benefits of public cloud. Firstly, in agreement with the Cornell definition, it must run as a service across cloud providers. Secondly, it should leverage the cloud-native constructs of each public cloud provider. Finally – with a nod to optimal performance – it must provide a consistent experience for practitioners by abstracting the underlying components of each cloud platform.

Is it a case of organisations waving the white flag with the complexity of multi-cloud? Collins stops short of putting it in those terms, but creating on-ramps, connecting apps and users and configurations remain a major headache-maker. “The advantages of multi-cloud have not been outweighed by the challenges of managing these deployments,” says Collins in direct response to this question. “But that complexity has made it so it’s much more difficult and takes a lot more time to fully realise those benefits.”

Collins notes that while the term might be new, the need for an ‘automated global cloud network’ is known among organisations. Alkira believes it is well-positioned to handle these challenges, being claimed as the only platform built in the cloud and offered as a service. The key: the Alkira network is managed using the same controls, policies and security network familiar to admins, meaning no new hardware, software, or architecture to learn. The company secured AWS Networking Competency status in network connectivity earlier this month, with relationships already established with AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.

“Ultimately, customers want an easy way to solve the long-lingering obstacles and bottlenecks in their clouds,” says Collins. “That means breaking down silos, minimising shadow IT, implementing enhanced end-to-end security, and achieving a new level of speed and agility in scaling the network to meet any application need.”

For CIOs and CTOs looking to get a handle on the concept, Collins suggests ‘contextualising what they already know.’ “Network performance is a must – if the network is slow, everything is slow,” he explains. “Capacity can make or break user experience. Adequately scaling on demand and tapering things down as demand subsides is critical. Networking must be present in the proximity of your products and customers in a secure and controlled fashion.”

Ultimately however, wherever you are on your digital transformation journey, performance counts for plenty – particularly as it is a key metric across the board, from security to workload distribution. As MacVittie noted in a blog post last April, the F5 research found that performance ‘as usual is a significant obstacle to realising the benefits of multi-cloud strategies and definitively driving businesses to extend to the edge.’

“Multi-cloud challenges put enterprises in a slog when it comes to architecting, deploying and figuring out how to manage new clouds and sites,” says Collins. “The entire process today can take several months or longer, and that’s for a major enterprise with technical resources and partners at their disposal.

“By leveraging the right supercloud platform, though, this can all be done in a few days.”

Picture credit: “Everybody Needs a Superhero”, by Eddie Wong, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Image modified from original

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