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Is your approach to SDN putting lipstick on your network pig?

Andrew Hindmarch, Director, Asia Pacific Networking, Avaya | July 16, 2015
Most early iterations of SDN are closer to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound than a true fix, ultimately delivering more complexity than agility, says Andrew Hindmarch of Avaya.

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.

Your network is ugly. I know you agree even if you don't want to publicly admit it. If it looks like any of the organsations I've visited recently, your network is an aging hodge-podge of hardware and software, stitched together with antiquated protocols. Racks here. Wires there.

And, it's breaking. Unfortunately for you, it's breaking at the worst possible time.

Every day, the business putsmore pressure on the network — new applications to run, more devices to attach, more bandwidth to provision and an endless stream of users to connect. Cloud-Mobile-Analytics-Social has forever transformed the speed of business, but also created a yawning agility gap between the speed of the business and the capability of the network. This gap is widening, and the business is suffering. The opportunity costs of not being able to provide stable, fast connectivity and device usage are extremely high for the world's largest mobile region: Asia Pacific. IDC's latest technology assessment indicates that the value of the APAC SDN market will surpass the US$1 billion mark in the next 3 years with opportunities for both cloud service provider rollouts and enterprise deployments. 

While SDN does promise a simpler, more agile architectural approach, prevailing models are incomplete. They've forgotten the "N" in "SDN." Most effort has been focused on the data centre. Approaches advocate for the introduction of new hardware, or software overlays, to enable SDN, but the paradox here is that these attempts to deliver greater simplicity have resulted in additional complexity. More protocols to manage. More hardware to orchestrate. More lipstick on a pig.

Let's look at some of the real-life woes I'm seeing and hearing:

Hospitals are being blanketed by mobile devices in addition to highly mobile and often remote care teams. Diagnostic equipment like X-ray machines come to the patient producing results immediately accessible by a specialist four cities away who consults with the radiologist to recommend an immediate course of treatment to the attending physician.

Compliance regulations require security of the information as it traverses the network. Distribution requires bandwidth, speed and flexibility. Securely connecting everyone and everything could be a nightmare all its own, but there's the added concern of protecting the rest of the network from the potential threats on them .Further, the care teams exemplify the growth ofthe mobile workforce, bringing with it the rising costs of connecting these employees and provisioning services — at the same time the pressure is on to cut IT costs.

Boosted by the Internet of Things, this scenario is playing out in multiple industries — manufacturing, retail, financial services, and governments driving to develop Smart Cities. Yet, as I've said, both IT and the network itself are breaking.  They're breaking under the burden of complexity, the demands for agility and an approach never meant for 2015. To underscore the point, 83% of IT respondents in a recent survey we fielded with Dynamic Markets pointed to service configuration — including adding devices and users to the network — as the number one pain that SDN needs to address.


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