SDN is ready for prime time

Yen Yen Tan / Vodafone Global Enterprise
03 May 2018

It seems that with the rapid adoption of new technologies from cloud computing and analytics to the explosion of third-party applications, network managers are constantly playing catch up to meet demands: They need the flexibility and agility to meet the challenge of giving employees the proper tools to efficiently execute their jobs, while minimizing the associated risk when running the network.

As companies increase their reliance on their network infrastructure to drive their business forward, IT leaders are looking for more ways to increase efficiency and meet organizational demands without the need for, or access to, large budgets. To do this, many businesses are looking at software to solve the cost/return conundrum – and to software-defined networks (SDN) in particular, to usher in the next generation of infrastructure.

SDN removes the requirement for traditional expensive, time consuming, labor intensive, hard wired, physical appliances and complex network architectures operations – and simply uses software to set up and implement them instead.

While SDN is not necessarily new, the industry is starting to take note of the proof-of-concept projects leveraging the technology, with a great deal of enthusiasm around its possibilities. Despite this however, SDN still has some way to go to achieve adoption.

Surprisingly, only 9% of organizations surveyed by Nemertes Research are currently using SDN, despite more than 42% evaluating the technology. It seems many businesses still do not fully understand the use cases and advantages surrounding SDN and how it can positively impact their business. That said there are a few key points that should push IT leaders to widely adopt SDN.

  1. Budget benefit: There’s a common belief that cost savings are the key selling point when trying to secure internal buy-in for SDN. And while it’s true SDN will cut your network infrastructure costs, that shouldn’t mean fewer resources for your network. A better way to frame this is that SDN reduces costs, increases efficiency and reliability and allows network budgets to go a lot further.
  2. Versatile bandwidth: Bandwidth can be a constant struggle for IT leaders – with an incredible amount of work going into ensuring the proper bandwidth capable of withstanding an organization’s workflow. SDN solves this by providing the ability to add flexibility to the amount of bandwidth used across the network – music to the ears of most network managers. For example, when an organization needs additional bandwidth to deal with unpredictable demand spikes – perhaps during a holiday sale or a financial close – SDN can simply accommodate the increase as needed and then decrease it once the spike subsides. All at the touch of a button. Likewise, as business units increasingly use the network capability and bandwidth for inter departmental needs; SDN can mitigate any unforeseen impact on the network. For example, if HR launches a new training application for employees that features videos, tutorials, and downloads, without notifying IT of the launch, then SDN would increase capacity to avoid a dramatic slowdown of the network and a poor experience for employees.
  3. All Seeing Network: As more and more web-based applications enter the workplace, IT is struggling to properly govern the applications that employees have access to. For example, YouTube may be banned due to company policy, however, marketing may require access, since it’s a critical component of their function. Governance at this level has traditionally been difficult, but with SDN, application-level control for individual business units is manageable and available.

Major investments in new technology are a time consuming and fraught consideration for many businesses, but the benefits that SDN provides should ease any hesitation IT leaders may face. Not only is it designed to make their lives easier, but adoption can positively impact business in a very short time. According to Nemertes Research’s 2016/2017 Cloud and Data Centre Benchmark and Maturity Model, organizations more likely to deploy SDN are the ones who are more successful than their peers.

Yen Yen Tan is Vodafone Global Enterprise’s president for Asia Pacific

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