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What’s next for cloud enterprise networking? 

In this era of the infinite enterprise, the cloud will have a vital role to play. Thinking about what’s next has never been more important, writes Markus Nispel, Vice President of International Markets, Office of the CTO at Extreme Networks.

Updated June 27, 2022 / Original June 27, 2022

By Markus Nispel

Vice President of International Markets, Office of the CTO, Extreme Networks

5 Mins

June 27, 2022 | 11:11 PM BST

The technology industry has always been obsessed with one question: what’s next? Whether it’s the metaverse and new business models around it, drones, quantum computing, 5G or various forms of AI, looking towards the future is part and parcel of working in the tech sector.

Cloud and specially SaaS models based on cloud technologies have been at the forefront of many of these conversations over the last few years and was key to enable most of them in the first place. As digital transformation of the enterprise has been super-charged and accelerated by the pandemic, Cloud based SaaS models have rapidly evolved from just another business model to an absolute necessity for service delivery, scale towards the infinite enterprise and business continuity along the way. In fact, cloud has become table stakes in terms of business success, at the core of everyday operations. 

The benefits it provides are well established. From the cost savings that come from downsizing physical data centres, to accelerating the velocity of innovation and providing the agility businesses need to adapt to changing market conditions and the infinite distribution of the workforce and applications, the cloud can address many of the challenges facing businesses today. That’s why it makes absolute sense for just about every organisation. 

So, does this all mean we’ve reached an inflection point in our use of cloud technology? And, if we have reached ‘peak cloud’, what’s next? There’s no doubt that cloud will continue to be the foundational building block for many years to come, particularly as businesses adopt increasingly distributed infrastructures like edge computing. With this, an extension of the cloud back into the enterprise becomes another piece of the puzzle. The key will be understanding how best to leverage the technology as it continues to evolve. 

What’s next with cloud? 

The increased efficiency gained through automation and streamlined workflows is arguably one of the biggest benefits that the cloud provides along with its elasticity of compute and storage resources provided. But we’re only just scratching the surface. Businesses can drive further efficiencies and flexibility if they are willing to re-architect their applications landscape to adopt containerisation and leverage Kubernetes to orchestrate them. 

Containerisation will grow in prominence over the coming years – a leap in terms of scalability, portability and flexibility compared to virtualisation. Beyond that, they use serverless compute for workloads that only need to run every so often, thereby boosting efficiency from both an operational and cost perspective will increase as well. 

Another industry challenge that will likely take centre stage in the future of enterprise cloud networking is standardisation. Currently, all the major cloud players have enough subtle differences that businesses often have to run workloads with multiple providers – whether that’s Azure, AWS or any other. This means these businesses must maintain two different environments and have staff trained in two different clouds.

With this in mind, it will be interesting to see what the industry does over the coming years to tackle standardisation, unification and inter-cooperation. The ideal result for businesses would be a ‘cloud of clouds’ – a centralised architecture powered by open, universally standardised APIs that businesses can use to command workloads across all platforms without having to learn different processes. A ‘cloud of clouds’ would offer a way to unify workloads so users can easily build, grow and monitor their entire cloud infrastructure from one place. Although this level of visibility doesn’t yet exist, that’s what would truly take cloud networking to another level. 

Taking the next step 

Ubiquitous connectivity through cloud-based infrastructures will enable a myriad of new possibilities for businesses. But, many are still holding themselves back – whether through a lack of internal skills, security concerns, or an unwillingness to give up control of data.

There’s a lot to consider, which is why our advice for businesses would always be to take things one step at a time. Prioritise migrating the oldest workloads, or those that have the smallest impact on your day-to-day operations. Cut your teeth on these and gradually move to bigger services and more important workloads where the re-architecture to leverage the benefits of the cloud will provide the biggest return on investment, versus a simple lift and shift. 

At the same time, invest in upskilling your employees. Encourage your IT staff to embrace the transition and learn new capabilities. It’s easy enough to get cloud certified, so help your staff go out and get the skills they and your business will need in the years to come.  This will provide the foundation for the rest of your cloud journey.

Remember, cloud isn’t just an investment. It’s a new way to deliver services, a way of working that can have a tangible impact on any organisation. In this era of the infinite enterprise, the cloud will have a vital role to play. Thinking about what’s next has never been more important.

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Markus Nispel

Vice President of International Markets, Office of the CTO, Extreme Networks

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