GigaOm Key Criteria for Evaluating Cloud Networking Solutionsv3.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Cloud Networking Sector Brief
  3. Decision Criteria Analysis
  4. Analyst’s Outlook
  5. About Andrew Green

1. Executive Summary

Cloud networking software enables data transmission within and between clouds by deploying and orchestrating virtual network functions (VNFs). Cloud networking is entirely software driven. Each virtual appliance plays a role in defining how the cloud entities communicate among themselves at a logical level, while also enabling connectivity among different data centers and cloud providers.

The virtualized nature of cloud environments, by which infrastructure is delivered as a service, does not allow cloud tenants the option of deploying hardware appliances as they do at on-premises data centers. Therefore, to enable networking in the cloud, providers have offered the virtual equivalent of appliances such as routers, firewalls, and load balancers. Within a cloud environment’s availability zones, these native tools allow users to logically define their virtual infrastructure estate and create policies that enable applications to communicate with each other without traversing the public internet.

While these cloud-native tools work fairly well within one provider’s environment, communicating across multiple availability zones, public clouds, private clouds, co-location environments, on-premises devices, and edge locations is difficult and hard to secure. Cloud networking providers enhance the capabilities of these native tools with better visibility, multicloud awareness, service insertion, granular controls, enhanced security, and third-party integrations. The cloud networking software we will be evaluating can be deployed in any one environment and can also enable communication among multiple environments.

Whether native or not, cloud networking software is, in essence, the software version of a traditionally physical appliance. It is a collection of VNFs. However, it must offer additional features as well, beyond network function virtualization (NFV), that make it suitable for cloud workloads. Such features include:

  • Cloud awareness: The solution has visibility and control over the cloud provider’s data centers, regions, or availability zones.
  • DevOps suitable: To enhance DevOps practices, cloud networking must leverage infrastructure as code (IaC) tools, which can help to include networking as part of the continuous integration and continuous delivery/deployment (CI/CD) methodology.
  • Application performance: The solution is designed to ensure application performance (and quality of experience) by operating at Layer 7.
  • Autoscaling: The solution can allocate and retract networking resources dynamically according to demand.

Additionally, modern solutions provide a centralized management platform that offers control over all of the customer’s cloud environments and on-premises data centers. The solution can be interacted with via a graphical user interface (GUI), command-line interface (CLI), or application programming interface (API), or it can be integrated with IaC tools. The management solution can help as well with topological views, troubleshooting, performance monitoring, access controls, and compliance.

Security for cloud networking involves two facets: traffic filtering and secure access. For traffic filtering, we can employ VNFs such as firewalls, either as standalone devices or as part of transit gateways, to create segments and microsegments that isolate applications or databases. For secure access, we use access control lists, zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and multifactor authentication (MFA).

Business Imperative
With the vast majority of enterprises opting for a hybrid and multicloud environment, connectivity across different providers poses a huge operational challenge. Cloud networking solutions enable businesses to connect workloads, services, and applications hosted across different environments with very little configuration. These connections are also automatically updated as environments change, enabling business continuity. Security is also an important use case that is tackled at the network level.

Sector Adoption Score
To help executives and decision-makers assess the potential impact and value of a cloud networking solution deployment to the business, this GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a structured assessment of the sector across five factors: benefit, maturity, urgency, impact, and effort. By scoring each factor based on how strongly it compels or deters adoption of a cloud networking solution, we provide an overall Sector Adoption Score (Figure 1) of 4 out of 5, with 5 indicating the strongest possible recommendation to adopt. This indicates that a cloud networking solution is a credible candidate for deployment and worthy of thoughtful consideration.

The factors contributing to the Sector Adoption Score for cloud networking are explained in more detail in the Sector Brief section that follows.

Key Criteria for Evaluating Cloud Networking Solutions

Sector Adoption Score







Figure 1. Sector Adoption Score for Cloud Networking

This is the third year that GigaOm has reported on the cloud networking space in the context of our Key Criteria and Radar reports. This report builds on our previous analysis and considers how the market has evolved over the last year.

This GigaOm Key Criteria report highlights the capabilities (table stakes, key features, and emerging features) and non-functional requirements (business criteria) for selecting an effective cloud networking solution. The companion GigaOm Radar report identifies vendors and products that excel in those decision criteria. Together, these reports provide an overview of the market, identify leading cloud networking offerings, and help decision-makers evaluate these solutions so they can make a more informed investment decision.


The GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a detailed decision framework for IT and executive leadership assessing enterprise technologies. Each report defines relevant functional and non-functional aspects of solutions in a sector. The Key Criteria report informs the GigaOm Radar report, which provides a forward-looking assessment of vendor solutions in the sector.

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