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LATEST THINKING


Boosting business agility through software-defined networking

Software-defined networking (SDN) delivers greater business flexibility, efficiency and cost savings.

Overview


 

Software-defined networking (SDN), in contrast to traditional models, offers greater flexibility, efficiency and cost savings.

This is accomplished in part by separating network services and traffic management from the underlying hardware.

We see great potential for SDN to make life dramatically easier for data center operators, enterprises and service providers alike.

In recent years, businesses have gained significant value from server and storage infrastructures, enabling IT to respond more quickly. Cloud-based management solutions have also provided flexibility.

However, current networks constrain the ability to quickly develop, test and deploy new initiatives. Collaboration and integration with partners, providers and customers is also limited.



 

SDN can transform an enterprise network into an adaptive asset that adjusts quickly to changes in requirements and becomes an enabler of progress.

Analysis

SDN improves business agility and efficiency by creating three “abstraction tiers” to replace the physical view of the network.

Each tier serves a specific purpose while collectively enabling network interoperability, centralized management and programmability:

  1. Data Plane Tier—Consists of physical network devices that delegate all intelligent functions to the centralized control plane.

  2. Control Plane Tier—A controller application running on commodity servers that maintains a global view of the network and directs traffic flow.

  3. The Application Tier—Software applications that communicate with the controller via the “northbound” interface to implement network services and functions.

How does SDN boost business agility? Here’s a few ways:

  • Speeding up innovation and responsiveness

  • Leveraging big data and mobile computing

  • Optimizing network assets

  • Improving security, compliance and active defense

  • Enhancing virtualization and cloud orchestration

  • Reducing operational and capital expenditure

Key Findings and Recommendations

Exact definitions of SDN vary. But it’s likely that several implementations will emerge as standard, and the features will converge in coming years.

It’s also likely that integration technology, such as SDN federation, will emerge to allow interoperability among different vendors.

Now is the time to start assessing and planning for SDN integration. We’ve sketched out a two-year road map that include the following steps:

  • Assign an executive sponsor to drive SDN activities.

  • Assess how SDN can contribute to a strategic plan for value creation and competitive differentiation.

  • Assess current network operations, and identify major pain points that can be addressed by SDN.

  • Evaluate the organization’s readiness for SDN—including processes, governance model, and people.

  • Market SDN offering to find the best match for the company’s specific needs.

  • Conduct one or more proof-of-concept implementation(s) of SDN technologies.

  • Develop a comprehensive transition plan to carry out the required organizational and technological changes needed for SDN implementation.

Taking these steps will not only help IT operations become more agile and efficient, it will also support the enterprise in areas like operational and capital expenditure, top-line revenue, security, and compliance.