Multicloud architectures have become the predominant cloud infrastructure model for the enterprise. According to research from TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group, 94% of organizations are using multiple unique public clouds. Companies have done so for good reason: to optimize costs, prevent vendor lock-in and take advantage of unique capabilities and strengths of specific clouds. But with all the advantages deploying workloads across multiple cloud environments brings, it has also created sizable networking challenges.
In the honeymoon phase of cloud adoption, a lot of companies implemented cloud solutions ad-hoc, without an overarching strategy. In many cases, this happened by circumstance, because organizations already had longstanding partnerships with companies that themselves began to move their offerings to the cloud. This created highly complex multicloud networking scenarios, often with a lack of visibility and control. Today, organizations need to purposefully build networks to support the needs of their cloud workloads. If you don’t deal with multicloud networking effectively, you risk poor application performance, inefficient use of network resources and poor customer and employee experiences. So, let’s look at what multicloud networking is and how to tackle it, affordably, while maintaining flexibility and choice as you build the digital infrastructure your business needs.
What is multicloud, and how did we end up here?
Before we dive into multicloud networking, let’s consider what multicloud means and how it became so prevalent. Often, the term has been assumed to refer to an organization using multiple public clouds, while hybrid cloud indicates a combination of public and private cloud infrastructure.
The concept of multicloud has, however, broadened to include a combination of multiple public and private clouds, whether the latter are hosted by the organization itself or using Bare Metal as a Service. Today, most organizations with a multicloud strategy are using both public and private clouds. Thus, our definition of multicloud encompasses both, and when we talk about multicloud networking, we mean connecting any cloud to any cloud.
What is multicloud networking?
To put it simply, multicloud networking is networking between different cloud environments to facilitate the transfer of data. It’s what you have to do to get everything in a multicloud architecture to work together reliably and deliver the best user experience for customers and employees. You’ll gather from our definition of multicloud that we mean networking between public and private clouds.
Cloud to cloud routing at the edge
Multicloud networking challenges
In upcoming blog posts, we’ll dive deeper into the how-to of multicloud networking, but for now, let’s talk about some of the problems with the common approaches enterprises take.
First, cloud solutions come with built-in tools for connectivity, and many companies use those cloud-native networking tools. But since each cloud networking capability is a bit different, this requires IT teams to learn to use the routing functions for every cloud they use. IT skills are already in short supply. Not to mention—duplicating resources isn’t very efficient, operationally.
In addition, typical multicloud networking architectures route cloud-to-cloud traffic through their WAN or rely on the public internet. The problem is, these approaches can lead to performance problems, inefficiencies or negative user experiences.
Using your central networking infrastructure for multicloud networking can burden it with extra traffic, adding to congestion, latency and costs. Using internet-based connectivity also has a number of downsides:
- When you use the internet to transfer data between clouds, you’re subject to higher cloud egress fees.
- The internet by its nature is a shared resource that offers less reliable performance than more deterministic connectivity options.
- Not every workload is suitable to be transmitted over the internet, for security, compliance or performance reasons.
To reduce these complexities, organizations need to move forward strategically to address their multicloud networking needs.
An alternative approach: Cloud-adjacent networking
Given the complexity of multicloud networking and the downsides of some of the more typical approaches companies have used, it’s encouraging to know that there’s an alternative possibility that offers better network and application performance, at lower costs, without vendor lock-in. That approach is routing cloud-to-cloud traffic using cloud-adjacent digital infrastructure.
If you want to take more ownership of your cloud-to-cloud networking, you can deploy networking functions like routers, firewalls and more in a central cloud-adjacent location and connect them privately and securely to your preferred clouds. Those private connections can be either physical cross connects or a virtual interconnection solution. Either way, you won’t be burdening your WAN, relying on the internet or incurring large egress fees. And with better cloud-to-cloud network performance, you’ll also have happier customers and employees.
The cloud-adjacent networking approach works for public-public and public-private cloud mixes, and it keeps you open and flexible so you can change up your mix of cloud providers and solutions in the future, as business needs evolve.
How Equinix can help
Multicloud networking at Equinix offers exactly the approach we’ve been discussing—connecting clouds through cloud-adjacent digital infrastructure. And you can even do so on-demand to correspond with the flexibility of your multicloud infrastructure. With Platform Equinix® you can solve the most common multicloud networking challenges, while working with the vendors and deployment models of your choice. You can deploy your own physical hardware using colocation, Equinix Metal® Bare Metal as a Service, fully automated virtual network functions (VNFs) with Equinix Network Edge or Equinix Fabric® with its integrated virtual routing service.
Equinix is a global leader in offering access to native cloud on-ramps and has a robust ecosystem of 5,000+ cloud, IT and network services providers. Our cloud-adjacent networking capabilities provide better multicloud workload performance, lower network costs, faster deployments and greater flexibility.
One thing’s for sure—multicloud and its networking implications aren’t going anywhere. Deploying cloud-adjacent networking resources at Equinix can help you get the most out of your multicloud strategy and investments.
To learn more about the possibilities of cloud-adjacent infrastructure with Equinix, download the Leaders guide to digital infrastructure.
 Enterprise Strategy Group Research Report, Distributed Cloud Series: The Mainstreaming of Cloud-native Apps and Methodology, July 2023.
 Flexera, 2023 State of the Cloud Report. In the Flexera 2023 State of the Cloud report, 87% of survey respondents reported having a multicloud strategy. 72% of those that have embraced multicloud use a hybrid cloud strategy involving public and private clouds. Of those, more than half have multiple public and multiple private clouds.