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Demystifying software-defined networking: four things every company needs to know before getting started

Justin Chiah, Head of Product Category, Networking, Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific and Japan | May 5, 2015
By taking the time to fully understand it and assess its suitability for your needs, you can use it to great effect and accelerate your business, says Justin Chiah of HP APJ.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is rapidly being adopted by many businesses across Asia. In fact, according to IDC the SDN market in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan), consisting of spending from the enterprise and cloud service provider segments, is set to grow from $6.2 million in 2013 to over $1 billion by 2018. There's a reason for that explosive growth. The challenges and opportunities associated with the explosion of cloud, mobility and big data are growing dramatically, putting immense pressure on networks. A software-defined network can successfully alleviate a lot of that pressure.

But SDN is still a relatively new concept, and understanding is not high amongst businesses across Asia. Before you embark on deploying SDN in your IT environment, here are four things you and your company must be aware of:

1) First of all...what is it?
Simply put, SDN is a network architecture that allows you to assign different network paths for different traffic types depending on where your business needs the most bandwidth. It lets you stop worrying about your hardware and focus more on the services that run across your network. By doing so, you can react quickly to changing business conditions and have the confidence that your IT network operations will support you. SDN fundamentally changes how we design, manage, and operate the entire network so it becomes much more practical and reliable.

2) What does it do?
Imagine your board of directors decide to meet in a room that isn't set up for videoconferencing. Traditionally, adding more capacity to accommodate that new usage scenario would mean someone had to physically install and configure switches. A software-defined network can add that capacity easily in just a few minutes.

SDN provides a single control plane that lets organizations deploy applications or services in just minutes instead of hours. The network is simplified because the control plane (which directs your traffic) is decoupled from the data plane (how traffic flows to specific places or applications). In other words, your network control becomes directly programmable and can adapt to where your business needs it the most. It's flexible enough to be scaled and configured to deliver a specific level of service to applications that matter to your business, such as communications, cloud or security.

At the foundation of enabling SDN is an open standard called OpenFlow, which allows instructions to be provided by SDN controllers instead of multiple, vendor-specific devices and protocols. Ultimately, this helps you to reduce operating expenses and results in less network downtime because of automated configurations that reduce manual errors.


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