Does SDN have real benefits for enterprises, or is it just a solution looking for a problem? Allied Telesis' Scott Penno offers his perspective.
The benefits of SDN for data centres and service providers are reasonably well understood. SDN is a technology that manages the flow of information. For each new flow that needs to be established, the switch contacts the SDN controller to determine how the flow should be forwarded.
It is this functionality that delivers the flexibility and agility required by large environments and enables a range of solutions which at the least would have been challenging to accomplish with traditional networking technologies and, in many cases, simply couldn’t be done.
On the other hand, the benefits of SDN for the enterprise are less clear. Many enterprise technology managers see SDN as the silver bullet that will overcome all of their challenges. From making their network perform well and making sure their applications are delivered better, and all of this being delivered for a lower cost than the traditional network they operate today.
A reality check
The reality is that SDN in the enterprise may only partially meet some of these challenges and for others it may have no impact at all.
A recent survey of technology managers showed that for around 60%, network management and operational expenditure related to network infrastructure was a key concern. This primary concern of technology managers is unlikely to be overcome by SDN.
In its simplest form, a switch has three components or tasks that need to be accomplished. The first of these is the forwarding of traffic which is simply moving data from one location to another. The second is the decision making process or control over how the traffic should be forwarded. And the third is the management of the switch or network.
While SDN is intimately involved in the second part of this process, which is to decide how traffic should be forwarded, the real challenge within the enterprise is the third part of this process: the management of the switch or network.
Both traditional switches and SDN switches need to be configured and managed for a variety of reasons, so this simply does not go away when you move to an SDN environment.
The good news is that there are networking vendors who understand what is actually required in the enterprise and have developed a range of innovative technologies that help reduce the cost
and complexity of networking by focusing on the key challenges experienced by technology managers.
These technologies complement both traditional and SDN environments by orchestrating the network and simplifying many of the tasks that are conducted on a routine basis. These tasks include automating the deployment of new network devices, simplifying and automating routine configuration tasks and automatically backing up and deploying device configurations.
While many see SDN in the enterprise as a solution looking for a problem, there are innovative technologies that actually reduce cost and complexity and overcome the challenges by experienced by technology managers on a daily basis.
Scott Penno is APAC regional marketing manager for Allied Telesis, a leading provider of networking infrastructure and flexible, interoperable network solutions.