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Digital Spotlight: SDN -- a disruption waiting to happen

Sathya Mithra Ashok | June 4, 2014
Disruptive technologies do just what their name implies. They shake up existing markets and values and replace it with new markets. Such disruption can be painful, wrenching and traumatic, even though they play out over decades and, more often, come out for the better at the other end.

"If you have a data centre capability and or need then SDN can bring both technical and financial advantages today. If you are a campus or enterprise then you need to look a little more clearly around the benefits to you and your customers.

"If you run a hybrid type cloud and infrastructure on-premise model then SDN is a proposition that can also be advantageous from day one in terms of financial return and speed to capability," says Gen-I's Lloyd.

For many organisations, SDN may not be relevant and will deliver no benefit at all — despite requiring hardware, software and skills to deploy and manage

Allied Telesis' Penno states that the firm is yet to see a compelling reason for the majority of small to medium, and even most large enterprise organisations to adopt SDN.

"For many organisations, SDN may not be relevant and will deliver no benefit at all — despite requiring hardware, software and skills to deploy and manage. Organisations need to engage with their vendors to understand the costs associated with deploying SDN or similar technologies and also to understand the benefits that may be delivered," adds Penno.

"They then need to determine if they have a problem that can be solved by SDN or similar technologies and if the benefits delivered will exceed the cost of deployment and management over time," he says.

"Every organisation with large data centres and network pressures would benefit from researching SDN and the developments in the industry. Networking has held back agility and speed of delivering, modifying and decommissioning applications for too long. Data centre networking investments should be evaluated as well," says Patterson.

The road ahead

While user cases remain rare, vendors are encouraging all large enterprises to consider SDN when evaluating an infrastructure refresh, and to start developing a plan that ties in with the business case of the business.

However, this is not possible without a key understanding of what SDN means and how it can benefit the business.

The most important thing to comprehend is that SDN is an architecture, not a technology. It is a way of systematically designing networks from the ground up based on the key concept of centralised control over forwarding elements.

"The main key challenge today to a successful SDN deployment is in building an understanding of how it can drive success for an organisation," says Jim Fagan, president of managed services at Pacnet.

"Many organisations have become interested in software-defined networking, but don't have a clear understanding of what comprises an SDN architecture or why the architecture is the way it is. The challenge is that the market's attention on individual technologies such as OpenFlow and overlay networking has limited the conversation — to fully understand SDN, you need to examine the architecture as a whole.


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