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Cisco, Google Partner to Tackle Cloud Complexity

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An automated network
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This week, Cisco and Google announced a partnership that promises to take much of the complexity out of deploying a hybrid cloud. The “Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud” is, what the two are calling, the industry’s first “application-centric multi-cloud networking fabric,” which is a fancy way of saying it’s an automated way of ensuring that applications and networks can talk to each other to do things like share service level agreements, security policies, and compliance data to create predictable application performance and consistent security.
 
The cloud is certainly all the rage now, particularly with everyone working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the cloud is a broad term and means more than just public cloud. For small businesses, cloud might equate to SaaS, but for the majority of organizations (84%), cloud is hybrid cloud, according to my research. A strong proof point for this is that the “big three” cloud vendors; AWS, GCP, and Azure, have all rolled out their hybrid cloud platforms. Last year at AWS re:Invent, I asked AWS CEO Andy Jassey why they felt it needed a hybrid cloud platform, and his answer was very simple: Our customers want it.
 
Large enterprises have data sovereignty issues, privacy concerns, and several other factors that will keep data local. The problem has always been how to tie the private and public environments together. Currently, IT managers need to configure policies in the private cloud independently from the public cloud. One might be able to create some consistency when things are first set up, but over time it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep things aligned.
 
One of the factors driving the industry towards hybrid and multi-cloud is the shift in application development. Apps are now comprised of containers and workloads scattered everywhere. A developer could authenticate the user on-premises, run some of the workloads in a public cloud, store the data locally, and then do AI on that data in a public cloud. The number of combinations is dizzying but does underscore the importance of hybrid, multi-clouds.
 
Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud solves these challenges as the Cisco SD-WAN is extended into Google Cloud (hence, the technically accurate but ridiculously long name). Customers can use Cisco’s SD-WAN dashboard, vManage as the single pane of glass to see and administer security and network policies across the public/private cloud barrier. For example, a security administrator might want to use network segmentation to keep application traffic separated from other traffic. Traditionally, this couldn’t be done in a hybrid environment without some fancy coding as the segmentation policies operate only in their domain. The Cisco/Google solution spans the boundary between the enterprise network and Google Cloud, turning complex into easy peasy.
 
The joint solution brings the following capabilities to joint customers of Google and Cisco:
  • A flexible, on-demand network that allows for automation, streamlining the provisioning process. In many cases, the customer network will join the Google network directly from their last-mile provider and traverse the Google network as long as possible. When it hops off Google’s backbone, it bridges to Cisco’s SD-WAN ensuring optimized connectivity between remote locations, the headquarter, and the cloud. In addition to connectivity, real-time telemetry information is provided via vManage for faster troubleshooting and problem resolution.
  • Automated application and path-aware routing simplifies the process of mapping business services to the best network. One of the core tenets of SD-WAN is multi-path capabilities but understanding what traffic to send where can be a challenge and changing it when the need arises is also difficult. The Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud allows customers to see their services in a single place with the ability to define the intent of how the network should handle them. If a change is needed, the network will automatically modify the path, saving time, and making on-boarding of new services faster. With a combined view of network telemetry, this solution also provides the most optimized path to interconnect Anthos-based services hosted in hybrid/multi-cloud environments.
  • Stronger and more intelligent security as the solution operates with an end-to-end security model. This integrates network security with application-layer security based on workloads and user identity. This provides security at multiple layers, resulting in better threat protection. As companies roll out IoT more broadly, the ability to automate end-to-end security will play a key role in ensuring the connected endpoints don’t become threat actor entry points.
The entire application development process has been modernized. App components are scattered across the globe. This has changed the role of the network from being “dumb pipes” to be the fabric that connects, secures, and optimizes performance. A poor performing network means a poor application experience, which leads to unhappy customers and workers. The change in applications mandates the enterprise network evolve and be inclusive of the cloud. Cisco and Google took a step in making this happen. It’s not the end of the journey, but it’s an impressive start.

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