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Adobe multicloud strategy transforms network engineering

Adobe created a multicloud strategy to connect to public clouds like AWS and Azure. One Adobe networking pro talks about how the new approach changed its definition of networking.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Network Evolution: Mobile device trends play big role in network development:

While some enterprises are using the cloud, others help it evolve. Adobe Systems began moving to a multicloud strategy over the last few years in its effort to deliver a seamless network experience for both its internal developers and customers.

The multicloud approach means Adobe is partnering with companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Cisco to connect its private cloud and public cloud components and move data closer to end users.

Matt McBride, Adobe senior manager of network services, said the multicloud strategy has transformed how the organization develops both its networks and IT staff. We caught up with McBride to talk more about his projects, what's on the horizon for Adobe's network and what he does when he's not at work.

Editor's note: This interview was edited for clarity and length. To read more about Adobe's multicloud strategy and the trends in cloud networking, see "Multicloud architecture takes hybrid cloud to new heights."

How did Adobe's multicloud strategy begin?

Matt McBride, senior manager of network services, Adobe SystemsMatt McBride

Matt McBride: I'm on the digital marketing side, and we have a large data center presence. My team manages all the network architectures and infrastructures across 15 different global data center locations. About two years ago, the marketing side of the business started engineering code in Amazon Web Services, and that evolved into, 'We're developing in AWS; let's start hosting the applications in AWS.' We needed workload mobility between AWS that's not just over the internet using an IP tunnel. We needed a more stable solution with more throughput and better performance. So about 18 months ago, my team came up with multicloud transport. We built out dedicated-circuit access to AWS using its Direct Connect service, terminating that on our physical hardware.

When you're starting to get environments like Adobe move into public cloud, it's very interesting to see how we're stretching [vendors] to accommodate our needs. Not only have we been stretching AWS, but it's coming up with solutions that are native now. Big enterprises and service providers are pushing public clouds based on custom demand.

We also partner with Cisco. Its CSR is a virtual router that runs in the cloud, and we've been pushing their tech. They've invited us to their conferences. We've done some webinars with AWS and Cisco to discuss how we're building out hybrid cloud connectivity.

What's driving Adobe's desire to build out the hybrid cloud?

McBride: Primarily what drove the digital marketing side of the business into AWS was agility. We needed an agile platform as a service that could just spin up resources and develop in these environments that didn't have a lot of red tape. AWS became a natural location for that to happen.

In our own data centers, the applications are virtualized to some extent, but we just didn't have the environments for these developers to code in. So they started developing in AWS, and the applications started developing in AWS, which created this dependency between the data centers and public cloud.

What are you most proud of in terms of the Adobe multicloud strategy?

McBride: Adobe's multicloud transport is quite large. We developed it for the digital marketing cloud, but the entire Adobe business is looking to leverage multicloud transport. So as we build out the connectivity for hybrid cloud or multicloud, it's not just a one-side-of-the business type of service. It's marching down the direction of 'One Adobe.' I'm very proud of that and the focus my team has had on that.

What main changes do you see the networking industry now?

McBride: It's very disruptive right now. We're starting to see more orchestration and automation happen at a large scale in service provider networks. It's forcing my engineers to become more software-aware and more API- and developer-focused. I just hired my first three engineers as developers -- I didn't even hire network developers to help us with our automation and orchestration efforts.

While I still need network engineers to understand the topology and build out the networks, I'm also seeing this need for developers to help us simplify our network so it can scale efficiently using APIs. My vision is that the network shouldn't have an engineer logged in via the [command-line interface] anymore. It should be an API and scripts, and using software lifecycles around the network. It's very interesting, this overlap of technologies. Then you throw cloud in on top of that.

Is all the change in the industry making changes in your own skill set?

McBride: We're seeing a lot of team collaboration. Our teams are the server administrators for the different applications in the digital marketing cloud. The developer and coding teams work with my team and teach my guys how to do those things. We've got to be thinking simplicity at all times. Any time my guys are building out a new network function, I always ask them if this is the simplest way to achieve what we need to. Is it automated? Is it orchestrated? Are we using standards in terms of our software lifecycle?

I've seen a huge transformation there, too. A lot of my guys have been engineers for years and years; they're used to doing things in their own way. But they're adaptable, and they're adopting the new technologies. I'm bringing in trainers to help train on Python scripting, developing and code. We're keeping the team engaged and more software focused by talking to industry leaders, sending them to conferences. They're becoming more cloud engineers than network engineers. They understand network technologies at a very deep level, but they're also incorporating more of a developer mindset, as well, to streamline processes.

How did you get started in your career?

McBride: When I was going to school at the University of Utah, I got a job as a help desk technician; this was in the late '90s. I was fascinated by how the internet works and how everything connects. I started reading books and studying Cisco, and I took the CCNA exam. In the meantime, I was working on my degree in computer science and geographic information system. It really launched my career. I worked for the university as a network engineer, and after seven years I went into the private sector working in the web hosting industry. I was there managing network connectivity, enterprise network and office connectivity, so all the routing and switching for the data centers.

And to shift away from Adobe networking: What book is on your nightstand?

McBride: I'm reading a book by Harvard Business Review called HBR Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need. I'm involved in a mentor program. As a mentor, the intent is to understand the perspective of the mentee and the strategic relationship goals desired from the process.

Next Steps

What's on the horizon for AWS?

Everything you need to know about the multicloud

How to manage in a multicloud environment

This was last published in October 2017

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