Story image

Why SDN will change your network forever

08 Dec 15

What’s hogging the technology headlines today? Mostly big data, cloud computing and mobility. But there’s one item conspicuous in its absence and that’s Software Defined Networking. Although relatively low-profile, SDN is a force which many in the industry reckon will change your network – and indeed your business – forever.

Strong words indeed. The enthusiasm is coming from vendors which include HP, Cisco, NEC, Intel… actually, you name them, and they’re likely to be part of of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). That’s an industry body dedicated to the promotion and adoption of SDN through open standards development. Among the obvious members – a veritable who’s who of the networking industry – are some odd ones out; investment banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example.

The level of interest is there because SDN promises to do to the network what cloud computing has done for applications: make them more flexible, more efficient and lower cost. And, of course, the network plays a rather central role in facilitating access to data and everything that comes with it.

Just how that is achieved also bears some similarities to cloud computing. SDN, the ONF tells us, is the physical separation of the network control plane from the forwarding plane, and where a control plane controls several devices. In simpler terms, it is a decoupled architecture – an abstraction which, it is claimed (by ONF), means an architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective and adaptable, ‘making it ideal for the high-bandwidth, dynamic nature of today's applications’.

That might sound like a good deal of techno mumbo jumbo. While the sort of stuff to excite network engineers, those signing the cheques have a more prosaic interest: why should money be spent on SDN?

The bottom line starts to add up because SDN promises advantages such as improved service provisioning, in terms of speed and agility. Setting up an SDN could be as straightforward a task as it is to set up a virtual machine: a few clicks of the mouse. Network flexibility to match ever-shifting business needs is always going to be a crowd-pleaser, at least for dynamic businesses. The ability to experiment on the network without making physical changes (and without risk) is also attractive.

Further advantages include the promise of better security, particularly where virtual machines are concerned. And just like cloud computing, throwing in a bit of abstraction carries with it the promise of efficiency and the associated cost gains and improved resource use.

Because SDNs are by definition open standards-based, the yoke of vendor lock-in is also cast off. Add any old hardware (perhaps not quite – the qualifier is actually ‘any new hardware from an ONF-aligned vendor’) and it should work with what you’ve got in there already.

Excited? You probably should be. But of course, before SDN will transform your network and help you earn the respect of the suits in the executive suite, it has a long way to go. Kurt Marko, the author of a recent InformationWeek report titled ‘5 SDN Business Benefits’, quoted in Network Computing, puts it like this: “Don’t try to construct an ROI spreadsheet for SDN yet; any financial model will necessarily be based on assumptions bordering on SWAGs [scientific wild-ass guesses]. But do realize that SDN is no passing fad.

In other words, expect to hear a lot about SDN as it makes its way along the Gartner Hype Cycle – and get it on your radar.

Silver Peak hits big four with Google Cloud agreement
Silver Peak is the only SD-WAN vendor to partner with all four leading public cloud providers – Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle.
Comms providers hit by most DDoS attacks in Q3 2018
New data indicates attackers preyed on the large attack surface of ASN-level communications service providers with a ‘bit-and-piece’ approach.
MNF Enterprise brings calling to MS Teams
Businesses can now use Microsoft Teams for local and international phone calling from their computer or device.
Survey reveals CX disconnect is risky business
Too much conversation and too little action could lead companies to neglect, lose, and repel their very lifeblood, according to Dimension Data.
Should AI technology determine the necessity for cyber attack responses?
Fujitsu has developed an AI that supposedly automatically determines whether action needs to be taken in response to a cyber attack.
Police making progress into Cryptopia breach
New Zealand Police say they are making ‘good progress’ into the investigation of an alleged cryptocurrency theft from Christchurch-based crypto exchange Cryptopia.
NEC concludes wireless transport SDN proof of concept
"Operation and management of 5G networks are very complicated and require automation and closed-loop control with timely data refinement and quick action."
Trend Micro’s telecom security solution certified as VMware-ready
Certification by VMware allows communications service providers who prefer or have already adopted VMware vCloud NFV to add network security services from Trend Micro.