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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.

Question 3 - How do you ensure that partners provide maximum impact for my network? What role do partners play in your SDN solution and what type of partners are most important to you?
By its very nature, the SDN environment is multivendor. No one vendor will come close to providing all the key pieces of the SDN puzzle. From devices to controllers to applications, SDN is, first and foremost, an integration challenge for all - suppliers and operators. The more successful suppliers will minimize the integration burden for operators. This requires the build-out of a high-impact ecosystem of partners and, most importantly, the execution of programs that serve to validate third-party product interoperability, facilitate the deployment of mixed vendor solutions, and streamline the delivery of support services aimed at day-to-day operations and future enhancements.

Question 4 - How do you help me get started with SDN?
The enterprise or service provider is increasingly sold on SDN. The benefits are just too compelling to ignore. Now comes the hard part - implementation. How do the operators prepare? Where should they focus their deployment efforts first? What are the first key steps to success? Where will they see immediate impact? What are the risks? The more concrete the guidance, the better the result will be.

With that said, bear in mind that suppliers themselves are learning on the fly with SDN, too. Here, the supplier that is willing to commit in-line resources -- not just off-line verbal or written guidance -- to your preparation, installation, and initial operation is solidifying not only the operator's specific deployment, but their own SDN technology and techniques.

Question 5 - How do you assure that your SDN solution promotes open networking?
SDN will never deliver on its full promise unless it is enabled by open networking technology. As earlier questions and answers indicate, systems integration, application development, ecosystem management, and rewarding deployments all pose a challenge to SDN adoption. Core to solving all of these challenges is effective use of open networking technology wherever possible. Does this mean that proprietary software and hardware systems are dead in SDN environments? Not at all. Standardized systems will never keep pace with all operator demands. Here, the proprietary system will serve us all well. The key for operators is to leverage all the open networking movement has to offer and choosing proprietary solutions that drive maximum value and accommodate ready replacement or adaptation as standards evolve.

... and a final bonus question:
We're early on in SDN adoption. Even the early users of SDN have applied the technology in rather specialized ways - e.g. data center traffic management. We're learning new SDN technologies, techniques, and troubles every day, it seems. With the vast majority of operators very unsure about what to do with SDN, the above questions must be asked and answered before SDN moves into the mainstream. With all the potential benefits of SDN, widespread adoption is inevitable. Solid answers to the above questions make SDN happen sooner rather than later!

Of course, with all that said, every operator should also be asking themselves, "How could SDN help my users, my staff, my organization... now?"


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