In what's being coined by some as 'the age of software-defined IT', CIOs face new challenges and opportunities as their roles evolve rapidly alongside technology.
With the advancement of the intelligent data centre, new infrastructure and operational models, CIOs can potentially harness SDN to lead business transformation, driven by digitalisation across the enterprise.
As customer service becomes an integral part of the CIO's role, so too does the importance of a seamless user experience. SDN is the next logical step for CIOs hoping to continually optimise customer interaction following the explosion of the application landscape.
"With expanded IT capabilities, CIOs can better take on the role of internal service providers, acting as the human interface for the management of core technologies while supporting the needs of line-of-business leaders," says Carr.
Areas like mobile device management (MDM), interconnectivity of browsers and devices, and the use of data analytics will be improved by SDN. To be truly dynamic, SDN applications must be responsive to their environment, and CIOs must continually be monitoring and refining that environment.
"The promise of SDN is tied to the information that surrounds the network and the steps IT teams take to capture that information to drive business and IT decisions," says Carr.
"CIOs can work with other business functions to consider how data is going to be collected, stored, accessed and utilised."
Getting a head start
Research by Juniper Networks last year found more than half of US businesses surveyed planned to adopt SDN, 74 per cent of which said they plan to do so in 2015, and 30 per cent planning to make the move in just one month.
SDN barriers around changing skillsets and organisational readiness are slowly coming down, though one big one remains -- the fear of locking the company into something that may not be the future standard.
Like many trends, competing vendors have jumped on the bandwagon really quickly, with software defined stores popping up everywhere filled with the same products but with new names.
"A lot of them are not quite what we'd call 'software defined'...I've heard one vendor say 'software defined power'. I'm waiting for 'software defined software' to pop up, everyone seems to have their own term," said Cappuccio.
"It's a big thought on everyone's mind in these earlier days -- can they build something today that will have a 10-year investment plan without locking themselves into something that doesn't benefit from future changes with technology and growth," adds McGregor.
He advises that CIOs look towards services that are open source and able to scale to meet growing business needs.
"It's the most critical element right now. We've just seen so much growth, every time a new outfit comes along, like Netflix, we see double digit growth week on week."
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