IBM Releases Hybrid Cloud Mesh Networking


By: Mary Jander

IBM announced the general availability of IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) that offers application-centric connectivity for hybrid and multicloud environments.

First announced in May 2023, the service deploys software overlays to connect applications, IBM said. The goal is to eliminate isolation of various IT operations teams from one another. “DevOps, NetOps, SecOps and FinOps workflows unite in a symphony of collaboration, providing end-to-end application connectivity through a single, harmonious pane of glass,” stated Murali Gandluru, VP Software Networking and Edge, somewhat breathlessly, in a blog.

That single pane is the Mesh Manager, an interface that leverages a network overlay to drive application connectivity across multiple cloud environments. Mesh Manager automatically tracks any changes to a cloud’s application environment. Operations personnel can set policies and connect applications without having to fuss with network infrastructure, which automatically reconfigures in response to commands.

“[A]pp-centric connectivity offers a new network overlay focused on application and service endpoints connectivity,” wrote Gandluru. “It’s totally abstracted from the underlying networks that provide physical connectivity, and hence is highly simplified.”

Gateways to Application Connectivity

At the heart of the IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh are two kinds of gateways that act as routers and connectors for the service. These include Edge Gateways, positioned near workloads to enforce security, implement load balancing, and collect telemetry data; and Waypoints, gateways deployed at IBM points of presence (PoPs) beside Internet exchanges and colocation points that optimize network configuration and cloud costs. This is a multicloud networking that most closely competes with Prosimo and F5, which focus on multicloud applications-layer networking. But it also looks like a potential competitor with Aviatrix.

IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh also integrates with IBM NS1 Connect, a product emerging from IBM’s acquisition of NS1 in February 2023, which uses the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) to automatically “steer” traffic in customer networks. Via application programming interfaces (APIs), NS1 Connect can help IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh users to monitor, troubleshoot, change, and maintain cloud networks.

IBM is also previewing IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh integration with Red Hat Service Interconnect, a platform based on the open-source project, which allows developers to quickly “self serve” links among applications and services, including those in Red Hat environments as well as in public clouds, VMs, Kubernetes clusters, or bare-metal hosts.

So far, IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh is integrated with IBM Cloud, and AWS integration is reportedly set for next year.

The Broader Picture

The IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh comes available at a time when multicloud and hybrid cloud connectivity has moved to center stage for IT professionals. In Futuriom’s 2023 Multicloud and NaaS Survey Report, 62% of 125 survey respondents cited the need to improve the performance of cloud-based applications as a key driver for multicloud networking (MCN), and 57% said that MCN was needed to provide centralized visibility, security, and compliance for cloud-based applications.

IBM’s Hybrid Cloud Mesh is among the first of Big Blue’s efforts to address the multicloud/hybrid cloud solution with a network overlay. Still, it appears that at least some of the more advanced capabilities that customers require, including configuring underlying connections between key cloud elements, hinge on the service’s integration with Red Hat Interconnect. Further, the underlying integration with multiple clouds is still limited.

Futuriom take: Multicloud/hybrid cloud solutions are emerging across a range of dimensions, and application connectivity is a vital piece of the puzzle. With its Hybrid Cloud Mesh, IBM has taken a notable step forward.