What is a connectivity cloud? | Connectivity cloud definition

A connectivity cloud is a unified cloud platform that delivers secure, fast, any-to-any connectivity between networks (enterprise and Internet), on-premises environments/data centers, clouds, applications, and users.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Define a connectivity cloud
  • Outline the benefits and components of a connectivity cloud
  • Explore example connectivity cloud use cases

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What is a connectivity cloud?

On-premises, cloud, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and public Internet environments are intrinsically different, and the tools used to connect and protect them together typically add more complexity. A connectivity cloud is a unified platform of cloud-native services that simplifies secure “any-to-any” connectivity across IT environments. In turn, this helps organizations regain control and visibility over their sprawling digital domains.

To understand a connectivity cloud in action, consider a hypothetical retail company — Acme Inc. Acme’s offices span multiple countries, and they employ thousands of people — some whom are partially or fully remote, and some of whom are contractors. Acme operates hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores, as well as ecommerce websites in different languages. Acme’s multinational operations and hybrid workforce make secure connectivity across a variety of locations, devices, applications, and infrastructure costly and complex. However, with a connectivity cloud, Acme can efficiently secure and connect all of their digital environments on a single platform.

Although every enterprise IT environment comprises highly specific tooling, processes, and architectural configurations, a connectivity cloud platform adapts to an organization’s unique needs while still providing consistent user experiences. This gives technology leaders a customizable control plane for their entire environment — no matter where their people, apps, or data reside.

What challenges do connectivity clouds solve?

Many IT and security decision makers’ responsibilities have significantly increased and grown in complexity in recent years. Technology leaders are expected to support a broad array of responsibilities, such as:

  • Securing remote access to applications and data
  • Managing multiple clouds, networks, and vendors
  • Implementing consistent IT and security policies across disparate systems
  • Driving technology consistency and performance for distributed workforces

Businesses that try to meet those demands through a combination of multiple clouds, one-off solutions, and on-premises hardware can find themselves grappling with new problems: less control over their IT environments, growing attack surface, difficulty maintaining productivity, increased vendor costs, and challenges meeting data compliance requirements.

Before a connectivity cloud, businesses face complex IT and security infrastructure sprawl

Connectivity clouds alleviate these gaps in the IT and security landscape, and give organizations better control and visibility over applications, users, networks, and data.

A connectivity cloud model simplifies connectivity and security between applications, users, networks, and data

What are some use cases for a connectivity cloud?

Agile development and testing

Organizations that embrace digital modernization continuously launch new digital features and Internet application experiences. But engineers and web managers risk being bogged down with application sizing, security and performance integration, and other time-consuming deployment tasks. With a connectivity cloud, those considerations are either integrated or fully automated. In that way, the heavy lift of constantly improving app security and performance is ‘outsourced’ to a connectivity cloud, so that developers can focus on building and testing apps instead.

SASE implementation

Global enterprises with multinational operations and hybrid workforces are particularly vulnerable to loss of IT control and visibility. Establishing secure connectivity across a variety of locations, devices, applications, and infrastructure can quickly become a time-sink. With a connectivity cloud, organizations can both secure and connect all of their network components on a single platform, without complex integrations and workaround — perhaps in keeping with the secure access service edge (SASE) approach.

Secure, fast apps and infrastructure

Large enterprises can have multiple internal or external websites for their various brands and regions — in addition to multiple application programming interfaces (APIs) connecting those sites to critical third-party services. With a connectivity cloud, they can track every variety of threat from a single place — and apply new protections and policy changes across the entire portfolio.

What are the architectural components of a connectivity cloud?

Many cloud-based platforms offer security, networking, or developer services from the cloud. But when these platforms fail to address critical use cases, or do not provide easy connectivity to every domain in the IT environment, they can become another IT silo.

To help connect everything and everyone in an organization’s digital environment, connectivity clouds offer the following architectural qualities:

  • Deep integrations with all networks. The public Internet and various other enterprise networks are large components of corporate IT “sprawl.” A connectivity cloud is integrated natively with all networks — both enterprise and Internet — offering secure, low-latency, scalable connectivity. It offers complete control from network request origin to the resource destination.
  • Composable, programmable architecture. Every enterprise has existing IT and security architecture, which a connectivity cloud must support. To that end, connectivity clouds provide API-programmable interoperability with existing clouds or on-premises systems, and customizable networking.
  • Built-in platform intelligence. A connectivity cloud has a wide range of built-in security, performance, data privacy, and compliance functions that reduce IT tradeoffs. It is capable of analyzing extremely high volumes of Internet traffic to automatically update models, and to deliver cross-functional network intelligence along with cross-functional threat intelligence.
  • Unified, simplified interface. A connectivity cloud provides one control plane for all services running on all servers. This reduces inefficient tool sprawl, dashboard overload, and alert fatigue.

What are the benefits of a connectivity cloud?

Ninety-eight percent of surveyed IT decisionmakers agree that businesses would gain value from a connectivity cloud that provides secure, performant, “any-to-any” connectivity (i.e. connectivity between more people, apps, data, devices, networks, and clouds). Also, nearly half of IT decision-makers believe this type of solution would accelerate digital transformation.

Other key benefits of a connectivity cloud include:

  • Greater visibility, performance, and scale as organizations connect between clouds (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), networks, and Internet-connected users
  • Faster employee onboarding thanks to simplified policy updates, user account creation, and other day-to-day security tasks
  • Faster time-to-market with more efficient application development and delivery
  • Reduced organizational risk with built-in threat protections across users, clouds, applications, and networks
  • Tighter alignment with data compliance, privacy, and sovereignty requirements
  • Reduced IT costs and complexity by enabling vendor consolidation and lowering data egress fees

How is a connectivity cloud approach different from cloud connectivity or network solutions?

A connectivity cloud is fundamentally different from other cloud-based solutions in several ways:

  • Public or private clouds offer less agility when it comes to transferring data into other platforms or “mixing and matching” solutions across clouds (for example, integrating a public cloud’s content delivery network with a private cloud’s object storage)
  • Traditional networks (including SD-WAN or MPLS solutions) do not add new services in a unified or programmable manner. They typically offer new solutions as bolt-on — instead of built-in — services
  • Networking “platforms” are typically a collection of disparate services that are presented as a unified system. These services may be accessible via a single dashboard (or even a mix of different UIs); but on the back end, certain platform features may only be available in certain locations or may run on a hybrid public/private cloud infrastructure — which can add latency and complexity. Different services may require complex integrations, and compatibility with related apps may be inconsistent
  • Specialized clouds, including SaaS vendors that focus on a single solution (e.g. cloud-based collaboration), may or may not support multi-cloud environments, and are not capable of running compute and security services in a composable, unified manner
  • Non-cloud-native architectures (including hybrid architectures) cannot ensure that all services are always consistent, available, and agnostic to on-prem locations or cloud providers

How to implement a connectivity cloud

Cloudflare is the world’s leading connectivity cloud — a unified, programmable platform of security and connectivity services across a global network spanning more than 320 cities. It empowers organizations to make their employees, applications, and networks faster and more secure everywhere, while reducing complexity and cost.

With a connectivity cloud powered by an intelligent, programmable global cloud network, Cloudflare helps companies connect, manage, secure, and accelerate their traffic and applications. Learn more about Cloudflare’s connectivity cloud.