As organizations continue along the path toward digital transformation, IT departments are evolving from technology caretakers to service providers who ensure that users have access to the applications and services they need. However, increasingly complex enterprise networks have made management equally complex, which forces IT back into caretaking mode.
Software-defined networking (SDN) can help overcome this obstacle. SDN separates control from individual switches and routers, which previously had to be configured separately based on vendor-specific protocols. With SDN, IT can centrally control traffic and manage how applications and services are delivered by programming all physical and virtual devices through a single SDN controller. This eliminates a time-consuming, resource-intensive process that had to be repeated every time a new virtual machine was deployed.
SDN makes management much more efficient, improves scalability, and provides the flexibility to optimize the network to meet changing Quality of Service (QoS) and security requirements. Because network resources are automatically provisioned and allocated based on current needs, SDN makes it possible to roll out new services faster and accommodate unpredictable network demands.
These benefits are driving increased adoption of SDN solutions. Market Research Future expects the SDN market to see a compound annual growth rate of more than 42 percent, reaching $59 billion by 2023. Adroit Market Research anticipates even faster growth, with the market exceeding $101 billion by 2025.
SDN technology is typically implemented in the core distribution network. However, organizations can benefit from applying SDN principles to the campus and branch network, a concept known as “software-defined access”.
Like SDN, software-defined access separates the data plane from the control plane, enabling end-to-end visibility and centralized management of a converged wired and wireless network. Control is automated through software, creating a more agile network that provides consistent, secure access to users, devices and applications across the extended enterprise.
Software-defined access provides a number of other benefits as well:
- Reduced capex costs. When network functions are delivered through software, organizations have less hardware to purchase and can utilize standardized “white box” solutions.
- Simplified management. Policy-based automation reduces IT operational overhead, enabling IT staff to focus their efforts on digital transformation and other strategic initiatives.
- Improved monitoring and problem resolution. Network administrators gain visibility into all elements of the wired and wireless network, improving their ability to monitor the network and detect and remediate issues.
- Uniform policy enforcement. A centralized controller can enforce access and Quality of Service policies consistently across all applications and services no matter where users connect.
- Faster response to security threats. Software-defined access makes it possible to quickly update security policies throughout the network, and to quarantine users, devices or traffic deemed suspicious by threat analytics tools.
- Enhanced user experience. Advanced analytics and machine learning can enable predictive network optimization, helping to ensure a high-quality user experience on any device from cloud to edge.
Digital transformation is bringing more and more devices, applications and data to enterprise networks, creating an urgent need for an integrated campus and branch environment with streamlined management and policy-based controls. Traditional network architectures are simply too rigid and complex to meet these new demands. Software-defined access gives IT teams the visibility, automation and control they need to enable digital transformation and take their organizations into the future.