Cloud is set to be the core foundation for organisations across industries as they reinvent themselves to succeed post-pandemic. Market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts spending on public cloud services in Asia Pacific will reach US$48.4 billion this year, up from US$36.4 billion in 2020.

However, the future will not lie in one cloud. Organisations in Asia Pacific are likely to use multiple clouds (multi-cloud) to reduce reliance on one vendor, comply with data sovereignty regulations, or because some applications or workloads run better on a particular cloud platform.

This introduces complexities to the enterprise networks. Those challenges include the need to establish reliable connectivity between applications that sit on various cloud platforms and ensuring those connections are secure.

“A multi-cloud environment requires the network to connect many applications and workloads together even if they are on different cloud platforms. Since many of those applications are business-critical and require high levels of performance, organisations also need to prevent network latency, jitter, and packet loss while securing the network when they adopt multi-cloud,” says Neil Templeton, VP of Marketing at software-defined interconnection platform company Console Connect by PCCW Global.

Solving multi-cloud network woes with NaaS

The public Internet is usually used to enable many users to access cloud applications quickly. However, organisations are increasingly turning to private connectivity options – such as dedicated Ethernet and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) – to meet the security and performance demands of mission-critical cloud applications. The downside of those connectivity types is that they can have slow and unwieldy deployment and management processes.

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) can better support business-critical applications by providing dedicated, private connections that are flexible and scalable on-demand. “NaaS is essentially an automated network platform, which allows organisations to plug into a dedicated network and consume networks on-demand, just as you would with cloud applications,” says Templeton.

Automation within the network makes it much easier and faster for network engineers to build or scale networks. “Typically, organisations have to provision a service from their carrier to spin up a network between clouds, which can take weeks. So having to provision that direct interconnect for every cloud and configuring them requires a lot of time and effort. Organisations are also often locked into long-term contracts that are not very flexible,” explains Templeton.

Neil Templeton of Console Connect - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

With NaaS, organisations can spin up high-speed connections to a cloud service in a matter of minutes on their own, with just a few clicks. They can also dial down their bandwidth on-demand and only pay for what they use. It’s a more cost-efficient, flexible, and easier way of managing networks in a multi-cloud environment.
Neil Templeton, VP of Marketing at Console Connect by PCCW Global

In terms of costs, Templeton shares that NaaS can also reduce egress charges, which are fees for moving data out of a cloud. Some cloud providers offer a financial incentive to be directly connected to them, such as Amazon Direct Connect and Azure ExpressRoute. Using NaaS to move data in and out of clouds via a direct connection can therefore help reduce egress charges by up to 30%.

Five considerations when selecting a NaaS provider

Despite its benefits, not all NaaS offerings are created equal. Organisations in Asia Pacific need to carefully evaluate if a provider and its solution can effectively support their multi-cloud environment to address their business needs.

See: VMware to help enterprises be 'cloud-smart' in a multi-cloud reality

Here are five key questions to ask when choosing a NaaS provider:

  1. How good is the quality of the provider’s underlying network?
    As more mission-critical apps will be cloud-based, they will require a consistently reliable, high-quality, and low-latency network. Templeton therefore advises organisations to assess the quality of the NaaS provider’s underlying network. Console Connect, for instance, rides on PCCW Global’s IP network that is consistently ranked among the top 10 for IP (Internet protocol) peering globally.  “This means we provide a high-quality IP network that transmits data to the intended destination (such as another application) faster with fewer hops,” he says.

  2. What is the breadth and reach of the provider’s cloud connections?
    Despite having a high-quality network, latency will still be an issue if the provider is not well-connected at the edge. As such, organisations should find out how connected the NaaS provider is to multiple cloud platforms.
    “Ask the provider how many cloud on-ramps – which are direct connections to a cloud platform – they offer and if those on-ramps are regional or local in nature as these add to the quality of the underlying network,” Templeton recommends.

  3. How easy is it to use the NaaS offering?
    Since the value of NaaS is to take the headache out of network management, the NaaS offering must be simple to use. It should offer a point-and-click interface, which enables network engineers to not only scale and flex high-speed connectivity as necessary, but also view, configure and manage their networks in a multi-cloud environment more easily.
  4. Does the NaaS solution use APIs?
    In general, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow different applications to communicate or send information to each other. When it comes to connectivity, APIs can be used to create automated workflows, so using an API-driven NaaS can help improve the efficiency of networks and enable networks to better cope with unexpected traffic spikes.  
  5. Does the provider offer bundled services?
    A good provider would also offer services that add value to its NaaS solution. For example, PCCW Global’s private MPLS network isolates traffic from the public Internet. This allows Console Connect to deliver stringent privacy and security policies required by today’s businesses.
Additionally, Templeton shares that Console Connect recently launched ‘MeetingPlace’. “Organisations can use MeetingPlace to deploy a cloud application and provision network to that application through one platform. Our main aim was to make it as easy as possible for customers to consume and manage cloud and network services,” he says.

Getting your networks multi-cloud ready

As multi-cloud becomes the norm, organisations in Asia Pacific will need a new approach to ensuring reliable connectivity between their cloud apps and managing their networks more easily and effectively.

Some might try to transform their networks on their own. However, Templeton warns that the move can be complex and requires huge investments in operational resources, which may not be readily available given the shortage of talents with cloud and network skills. 

A more effective approach is to leverage the help of a NaaS provider with an easy-to-use solution supported by a high-quality underlying network and a breadth of direct connectivity that has been pre-integrated into multiple cloud platforms.

Organisations that do so will be able to connect to multiple clouds in just a few clicks, reduce the complexity of network and connection configurations, as well as self-provision and manage services in real-time. This, in turn, frees up time for network engineers to take on higher-value tasks, and enables organisations to respond to changing business demands in a more agile manner, and better compete in the digital economy.

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