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Q&A with Mahesh Natarajan: The need for SDN

Nurdianah Md Nur | Dec. 20, 2013
Besides talking about the benefits of SDN, Dell’s Mahesh Natarajan also explains the reasons for the slow adoption rate of SDN for enterprises in the region.

As enterprises expand their networks of information to cater to their increased business, the cost of operating these networks may skyrocket and it might be complicated for manual labour to sustain them. Software-defined networking should thus be used to counter these problems, said Mahesh Natarajan, PG expert on software defined networking and Dell Active Fabric. He also explains the reasons for the slow adoption rate of SDN in Asia. 

There is a lot of talk going on about SDN so far but what is the adoption rate of it like in the Asia Pacific region?
According to IDC, the global SDN market was worth US$360 million in 2013, and this figure will go up to US$3.7 billion by 2016. Although this is a quantum leap, we do recognise that SDN is still relatively new with its approach of providing networks with more real-time intelligence, deep application integration and high levels of automation to prepare networking technology for the rigorous demands of the cloud era.

The benefits of SDN are well speculated - networking managers anticipate far diminished reliance on expensive proprietary networking switches and routers as SDNs can be configured on less expensive hardware. Importantly, the main benefits are from a managerial flexibility standpoint, and it provides tremendous potential to drive the next generation of IT services.

However, the technology is still in its infancy, and does present some challenges in its adoption, especially in its integration with existing networking solutions. While other infrastructure technologies have become virtualised and automated, traditional networking solutions are built using legacy development methodologies that prevent application ecosystems from emerging and that are incapable of driving high levels of automation and application integration. Hence, many customers are locked into the proprietary approaches their existing vendors have adopted. As a result, IT organisations today face the complex challenge of integrating new technologies into complex existing environments with minimal budget and resources and without incurring downtime.

Why should organisations adopt SDN? What factors should organisations in Asia consider before implementing SDN?
Several factors in today's data centres have operators considering new and different network architectures beyond the traditional three-tier, monolithic systems of the past. These include: Virtualisation and new workloads changing the network traffic patterns and demands; the emergence of SDN and the promise of network programmability; convergence of formerly distinct technology silos; and input/output consolidation with migration to 10GbE server platforms. These dynamics present CIOs not just architectural challenges but also budgetary and operational considerations.

With the emergence of SDN, IT managers can anticipate a diminished reliance on expensive proprietary networking switches and routers as the technology can be configured on less expensive hardware. SDN essentially provides them with a controller that is decoupled from switches; from which they can harness and shape data traffic flows without having to manually configure individual pieces of networking hardware like they conventionally used to. As mentioned, the main benefits also come from a managerial flexibility standpoint, which is why Dell has been working with SDN partners to build in the solution into its Force10 portfolio.


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