11.03.2016Enterprise Tech

Software Defined Networks drive efficiency, agility and cost savings

By: Lee Field

Almost three out of five CIOs we speak with today tell us that technology providers often seem to be pushing Software Defined Networks (SDN) simply to sell hardware – and they just don’t need more hardware.

Let’s be clear: SDN isn’t a box. It is about enabling better performance and efficiency in the software layer. What all CIOs today really need to understand is how to leverage SDN to improve performance and reinvent their business processes in order to be able to compete more effectively.

While cost reduction will usually be the most compelling benefit for any technology adoption, the more persuasive argument for SDN adoption is that the technology can drive enterprise-wide change. Successful proof-of-concepts are frequently moving to production quicker than planned. Greater network agility and reduced cost allows a CIO to package services differently, which can reduce time to market and reduce opportunity costs. This gives the CIO greater business agility, which in turn offers more freedom to innovate, catalyzing an upward innovation spiral.

Software defined networks… give the CIO greater business agility, which in turn offers more freedom to innovate, catalyzing an upward innovation spiral.

SDN for optimizing cloud and virtualization

In the simplest of terms, no network means no cloud and no applications. Nonetheless, cloud adoption has risen without the wonderful benefits of SDN technology. How does that work?

If you look at network models used across most organizations, they haven’t really evolved much since the 90s. But how much has technology has changed? We’ve applied Moore’s Law to networking in moving from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps and beyond, but we have only just started seeing changes in network architecture. As our perimeter dissolves, more applications are being hosted in the cloud, and with application hosting environments sitting outside the traditional internal network, a different, more optimal model is required.

Now, imagine an application that can detect demand and move compute instances and network loads to different server farms based on where the user is located. Bear with me here: SDN helps to fulfil this by decoupling control from the hardware plane. Rather than requiring hardware, physical equipment or significant human intervention to provision for expansion or contraction based on usage needs, SDN enables a CIO to scale up and down as needed via software controls. As a result, SDN is an enabling technology that allows an organization to drive far greater efficiency and agility from their network and virtualization environments. It also allows for significantly improved management, increased visibility and better automation. No more over-provisioning!

The same application could change network routes based on revenue projections or data sensitivity within the application.

For example, an eCommerce application currently serving users within the U.S. market plans to expand internationally; however, due to data privacy laws, data must remain locally stored. Rather than running lengthy infrastructure build-outs and network implementation projects, the application could move instances to a cloud provider in that respective territory, provisioning VPN back to the company’s headquarter and detect and encrypt personal data to meet privacy rules. With SDN and automation this could be done in just minutes – or seconds.

In the second part of this series, I’ll discuss how SDN plays an important role in securing the network and give a high level overview on implementing the technology.

About the author(s): Lee Field is Associate Director for Solution Architecture, Asia, at Verizon.