Software-defined networking (SDN) is a hot, much debated topic and although still in its infancy, it offers the potential to transform how complex networks work. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only yet more industry hype, the era of Software Defined Everything is already upon us. Software is being applied to everything from servers, storage, data centres, right through to arguably the most ground-breaking piece of the jigsaw – the Wide Area Network.
SDN changes the way companies build their IT environments by essentially moving the “control plane” of the network away from each individual device in the network to a central controller that works with all the devices, both virtual and physical. This allows for a single controller to configure or manage the complete network, as opposed to each device managing its own functionality and being programmed individually. The technology has huge benefits for businesses, including reducing IT expenditure and enabling changes to the network quickly and easily.
The importance of the network
SDN deployments are still very limited and at their early stages of development. This is due in part to the fact that today’s corporate networks use open standards such as the IP protocol and Ethernet connectivity, but configuring the networks themselves often requires lots of manual tasks because each device on the network has separate policies and consoles. Making significant changes in the network – even with existing hardware – can be time-consuming, potentially taking a week or two. With the move towards server virtualisation and cloud computing, this has become even more complex.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that SDN is making its way to centre stage. SDN is being tackled from all sides of the ecosystem, from virtualisation vendors like VMWare to the traditional networking providers like Cisco. Not only is it going to fundamentally change the business models of the networking and server industries, but it is also going to escalate the importance of the network.
The value that SDN poses for businesses is immense. It holds greater potential for productivity increases from IT than any other development because of the way it acts as a unifying force between disparate elements – computing, networking, virtualisation, information, and business logic. There’s no doubt that SDN will be a disruptive force across cloud, carrier and enterprise networks, likely in that order. The natural progression of turning hardware into software will result in re-architected networks, data centres and infrastructures.
What the future holds
The integration of everything into the network will become a no-brainer in the coming year and this will essentially transform the network into the epicenter of ICT services. While no one can predict the SDN end-game, we are at the cusp of a revolution in the way global networks are designed, built, and managed.
By providing more real-time intelligence and deep application integration SDN is going to enable enterprises to realise innovation earlier with applications rolled out in hours instead of weeks. Organisations will achieve never-before-seen levels of agility while reducing both capital and operational overhead to the lowest levels ever delivered in enterprise solutions.
As a platform, SDN provides the potential to drive the next generation of IT services. Early high visibility adopters like Google and the recent significant increase in VC funding into the SDN area is fuelling momentum and the emergence of the era of Software Defined Everything looks set to change the power of the network for good. Organisations should be looking very seriously at how SDN can benefit their businesses before their competitors get there first.