Networking must embrace cloud-native paradigm

Preparing for and deploying cloud-native networking and hybrid cloud architectures enables businesses to make more effective use of cloud resources.
Paul Stuttard
By Paul Stuttard, Director, Duxbury Networking.
Johannesburg, 08 Feb 2024
Paul Stuttard, director, Duxbury Networking.
Paul Stuttard, director, Duxbury Networking.

As businesses increasingly adopt cloud computing for their applications and services, networking strategies need to adapt to the cloud-native paradigm of software development.

Often described as a set of principles, practices and technologies, cloud-native networking denotes the design, deployment and management of networking infrastructures in a cloud-native environment.

According to prominent UK-based IT industry professional Mervyn Graham, cloud-native networks are “built from the ground up for the cloud [and] any application created using this method can take advantage of all the value-add it has to offer”.

Being designed with the express purpose of using the full potential of cloud computing, cloud-native networks can more easily connect with cloud platforms and benefit from the scalability and flexibility of cloud services, enabling businesses to make more effective use of cloud resources.

In essence, cloud-native networking is an all-encompassing method of creating and overseeing a networking infrastructure for applications within architectures that prioritise security, flexibility, agility, scalability and portability between various cloud environments.

Cloud-native networking makes use of a variety of technologies designed to enhance application performance, optimise resources and improve operational effectiveness.

Security is a fundamental element of networking in a cloud-native environment.

For example, a microservices architecture is frequently used in the development of cloud-native applications which are made up of discrete, autonomous services. While the communication and interaction between these services is supported by cloud-native networking, each microservice may have different network requirements.

Applications that are cloud-native are often deployed in containers. Orchestration tools like Kubernetes − an open source system − help manage the deployment, scaling and operation of these containerised applications. In this instance, cloud-native networking solutions need to integrate seamlessly with container orchestration systems.

A vital component in the realm of cloud-native technology is the service mesh. This infrastructure layer is designed to oversee communications between services and provide functions such as load balancing, encryption, authentication and monitoring.

The use of tools to establish a service mesh has become essential for enhancing control and visibility when it comes to communication among microservices.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a relevant technology that can be used to improve agility and responsiveness by dynamically modifying network configurations to suit application requirements.

And the idea of infrastructure as code (IaC), in which network configurations are written and controlled programmatically, is also embraced by cloud-native networking. IaC contributes to network infrastructure automation, version control and repeatability.

Security is a fundamental element of networking in a cloud-native environment. It is essential for tasks such as data encryption, identity and access management and adherence to regulatory standards. It is imperative to maintain consistent implementation and the enforcement of network security policies throughout a cloud-native infrastructure.

What about the connection between cloud-native networking and hybrid cloud architectures? It is strong and they are often regarded as interconnected concepts that mutually reinforce each other.

An example of this symbiotic relationship is that networking solutions in the cloud-native context are able to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the dynamic and dispersed characteristics inherent in hybrid cloud deployments.

Moreover, a cloud-native network's architecture allows it to be flexible and adapt to changing workloads and infrastructure requirements. Similarly, hybrid cloud architectures give enterprises the freedom to deploy workloads where they make the most sense by combining on-premises and cloud resources.

Here’s another example: In a hybrid cloud architecture, an organisation might deploy services from multiple cloud providers along with an on-premises infrastructure. Ensuring consistent networking across these heterogeneous settings is largely dependent on cloud-native networking technologies.

Further, in hybrid cloud systems, networking settings and rules must be uniform across on-premises data centres and the different cloud platforms. Cloud-native networking technologies − such as service meshes and SDN − help enforce and manage these policies, regardless of the underlying infrastructure.

With security being a key consideration, organisations must integrate security measures into both on-premises and cloud infrastructures. In this sense, cloud-native networking technologies play a role in achieving consistency in this regard.

Preparing for the introduction of cloud-native networking and hybrid cloud architectures involves a combination of strategic planning, technology adoption and organisational readiness.

According to IT industry commentator Stephanie Susnjara, the hybrid cloud has become the IT infrastructure of choice by “providing the interoperability and portability organisations need to access data where and when they need it”.

However, she warns that “navigating the complexities of building and managing a hybrid environment poses unique challenges. To capture the most value from hybrid cloud, business and IT leaders must develop a solid hybrid cloud strategy supporting their core business objectives.”

Given this context, businesses should assess their current infrastructures, applications and workloads to pinpoint potential candidates for migration to the cloud and those that align with cloud-native architectures.

Beyond establishing clear business objectives and goals that underpin the adoption of cloud-native networking and hybrid cloud architectures, organisations should also compare the compatibility of existing networking solutions with the requirements of both cloud-native and hybrid cloud environments.

In addition, the chosen implementation team's skill sets must be taken into account and suitable training programmes initiated as necessary.

Security must be given top priority from the outset. Establish and put into effect uniform security rules and policies for both on-premises and cloud settings. To safeguard data and apps in this way, use should be made of identity and access control, encryption as well as other security best practices.

Looking to the future, it is crucial to promote a culture of continuous improvement by routinely assessing and refining networking and cloud-native infrastructures. This includes keeping up with the latest developments in hybrid cloud computing in this changing and challenging field.