As more and more companies move their applications and services to the cloud, breaking up monoliths into a number of microservices, networking has become a critical component of any cloud-native architecture.
However, networking in a cloud-native world can be quite complex, with a wide range of challenges that must be addressed to ensure optimal performance, security, and scalability, especially for mission-critical high-performance applications.
In this blog, we will explore some of the key challenges of networking in a cloud-native world for applications that expect a consistently high throughput of traffic and where delayed responses can be extremely damaging.
Traditionally, mission-critical applications have been designed to run on well-defined, dedicated hardware to ensure the availability and performance of network interfaces. This typically leads to the over-provision of network resources to ensure seamless handling of peak demands at the cost of availability. Virtualization allows virtualized network interfaces to share underlying physical interfaces with other virtual machines (VMs) running on the hardware. Cloud-native takes it a step further with pods running on worker nodes which themselves could be running on VMs. However, a cloud-native application has little way of knowing exactly what the underlying infrastructure is being shared with and each layer of virtualization adds complexity and consumes some resources.
2. Dynamic Infrastructures
One of the key challenges of networking in a cloud-native world is the dynamic nature of a networking infrastructure. With cloud-based services, resources are provisioned and deprovisioned on demand, which means that the underlying network must be able to adapt quickly to these changes. This can be particularly challenging when it comes to scaling services, as sudden spikes in demand can put a strain on the network. To address these challenges, cloud-native networking architectures must be designed to be highly scalable and able to dynamically allocate resources as needed.
Another major complexity of networking in a cloud-native world is the use of microservices and microservices-based architectures. Microservices are small, independent services that work together to deliver an application or service. While microservices can offer many benefits, such as improved scalability and flexibility, they can also make networking more complex. Because each microservice is independent, it may have its own unique networking requirements and dependencies. This can create a spaghetti-like network topology that is difficult to manage and troubleshoot and can make overall response SLAs hard to guarantee.
4. Service Discovery
Service discovery is another key challenge of networking in a cloud-native world. In traditional networking architectures, services are typically identified by their IP addresses or hostnames. However, in a cloud-native world, services are often ephemeral and constantly changing, which makes it difficult to keep track of them. Service discovery tools are used to dynamically discover and manage services, but they can also add complexity to the network architecture. Routing traffic between services that live in different cloud-native clusters is also problematic as often there is no direct visibility of pods that live in different clusters. This is especially problematic for geo-replication-type services. Network setup for complex cloud-native environments to ensure routing and availability of all services while not compromising security is challenging.
Security is another major concern when it comes to networking in a cloud-native world, especially with services deployed on public cloud. Because public cloud-based services are accessible over the internet, they are often targets for cyber attacks. Network security must be designed to protect against a wide range of threats, including DDoS attacks, malware, and unauthorized access. This requires a layered approach to security that includes firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and other security tools. Many industries now looking to utilize the CapEx and scale opportunities of public clouds have been used to physical separation of networks from the outside world so a change in security mentality has been needed.
Networking in a cloud-native world can be complex, but it is also critical to the success of modern applications and services. Getting your networks to behave as expected is critical for applications to be able to meet SLAs.
While this used to be reasonably simple, cloud-native makes it complex, and each vendor’s needs will likely be different, especially for mission-critical high-performance applications (such as charging), where any glitch in network connectivity for any pod in the system will cause problems and be a bugger to troubleshoot.
To overcome the challenges of cloud-native networking, organizations should embrace flexible, scalable, highly automated network architecture and work with their vendors to ensure that expectations around monolith breakup and any related inter-service dependencies and provision expectations are met.
Companies must also adopt tools and strategies designed to address the unique challenges of microservices, service discovery, and network security. Be sure to work closely with your vendors to provision appropriate network resources and routing in cloud-native deployments in ways you wouldn’t have had to think about before with a monolith. By doing so, organizations can ensure that their cloud-native applications and services are highly performant, secure, and reliable.