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BLOG: Six questions to ask your SDN supplier

Mark Leary | Oct. 29, 2013
Businesses considering investing in software-defined networks need to ask their suppliers some important questions.

Let's face it - real-world deployments of SDN are currently few and far between. While deployments have started to reach beyond the leading-edge Googles and Microsofts of the world, most enterprises and service providers are still in research mode with respect to SDN and the related Open Networking and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) movements. The good news is that suppliers - even the leading-edge suppliers - are also more SDN researchers and developers than installers and integrators right now.

With all the SDN research and development going on in the industry, there is no shortage of SDN publications and pronouncements. Unfortunately, much of this SDN material is focused on raw technological advancements or unrealized potential benefits. What is missing is the practical guidance for the operator looking to move to SDN sooner (and smoothly) rather than later (and roughly).

How does an operator fill the void between technology and reward? The following questions must be asked - and answered - if an SDN solution is to deliver on its promise:

Question 1 - How do you make it easy to for me to integrate SDN solutions into my current network?
Let's face it - change is the primary source of network problems. Most studies claim that software-related changes cause most network problems. And here we have SDN, not only representing major change to the network, but major software change to the network. You can bet that the fear, uncertainty, and doubt related to SDN rollouts slow adoption of SDN solutions and, ultimately, the delivery of SDN benefits. Two things go a long way toward reducing the FUD factor relating to SDN deployments.

First, validated working solutions provide solid proof that SDN solutions can be weaved into current infrastructures without exposing a working network to all the risk typically associated with major network alterations. Second, the continued use of existing network designs and devices within a new SDN structure provides comfort from both a technical and financial standpoint. Upgrading the old provides so much more comfort than replacing with new.

Question 2 - How do you promote the development and delivery of SDN applications?
The more advanced SDN solution suppliers have already established strong programs aimed at attracting application developers. However, attracting developers is one thing. Nurturing them is another. How is this different, you ask? Well, APIs and SDKs send notice that an SDN solution is open to third-party development. These tools serve as the initial attraction to developers. To heighten delivery of SDN applications, people and programs must stand behind the products. Here, engineering resources, certification programs, and integration services drive success over the longer term - for the SDN supplier, application developer, and network operator.


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