Most of today’s corporate networks have a complex mix of proprietary hardware that must be manually configured and managed. Not only is this kind of infrastructure woefully inefficient, but it fails to deliver the flexibility and agility that organizations need to support big data and keep up with the pace of business. Software-defined networking (SDN) offers a fresh approach to network design and management that promises to overcome these obstacles.
SDN separates the control plane from the data plane so both can be optimized based upon business requirements. Hardware such as switches and routers no longer determines how traffic should be routed or how resources should be allocated. Instead of configuring physical devices one by one according to vendor protocols, network policies and applications are centrally programmed and managed through a single controller. The SDN model embraces the trend of moving away from hardware-focused infrastructure in order to create more customized, agile networks.
SDN delivers a number of business benefits, including:
- Simplified management. IT has end-to-end visibility of the network through a single interface. All physical and virtual devices are centrally managed, and the provisioning and configuration of network resources are automated. This greatly reduces the chance of human error and frees IT to focus on strategic business initiatives.
- Greater agility. SDN creates a more intelligent, automated network capable of accelerating the delivery of services and the deployment of applications, which enables organizations to quickly respond to changing market conditions and stay ahead of the competition.
- Reduced capital and operational costs. SDN controllers are vendor-neutral, enabling IT to use inexpensive, commodity hardware or repurpose existing equipment. Centralized management and control, higher resource utilization, and the elimination of proprietary protocols bring administrative efficiency and operational savings.
- Improved security. SDN provides IT with a central security hub for consistently applying security policies across the enterprise and quickly addressing suspicious traffic or activity.
While there has been much excitement about the potential of SDN, many experts predict that this will be the year in which SDN truly begins to see widespread adoption. International Data Corp. (IDC) expects the global market for SDN to grow 89 percent annually and exceed $8 billion in 2018. Industries that utilize big data, including financial institutions, oil and gas, and healthcare, are expected to lead the shift towards SDN. Gaming companies see SDN as a way to support high volumes of traffic produced through online gaming. Even organizations that aren’t ready to make the leap to SDN now are still making data center purchases with SDN in mind.
In the next post, we’ll explain SDN in greater depth and discuss some of the steps organizations should take to begin preparing for SDN adoption.