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SDN in the Real World

Recently we commissioned Ben Kepes of GigaOM to write a paper on the status of SDN and its applicability to the real world of Enterprise networking.

The paper provides a good baseline on the current status of SDN, its market adoption and guidance on which areas that you should peek under the covers of to reveal the real benefits from the more elaborate ‘story’ that might be being promoted.

The paper is balanced, SDN is not all champagne and roses….. There are some hurdles that need to be overcome to move SDN from the early adopter stage to mainstream but Ben’s paper goes a long way to explaining these hurdles and providing a path to success. Like anything new, it’s a matter of understanding the benefits and using this knowledge to plot the best path for success for your own environment.

While much of the early discussion on SDN has revolved around new and exciting protocols and ways of controlling network elements, the real value lies in a more fundamental shift in operational mindset; to me SDN is about a new way of operating the network, and an evolution that is mandatory to remain at the forefront of the move to the cloud.

For so many decades the networking world has been consumed with the notion that network connectivity is the service everybody wants to consume.

Network hardware and software vendors and even the folks who engineered and operated the networks had a single concern; the network. Their appreciation for the applications that ran over the network was at best a secondary concern. Like the scene at the end of Scooby-Doo; the network was running fine, until those meddling applications came along.

But with the shift to the cloud the network has been relegated to a bit player (pun intended) with the focus fairly and squarely on the consumption of applications be they in the building, across town or even on the other side of the planet.

With SDN, we have the guiding principles to remove the constraints of the network and to shift our focus directly to the applications that businesses require. This is not to say that the importance of the network has suddenly vanished, far from it. Its more that the focus and purpose of the network has been ‘realigned’, its pivoted from being the end focus to becoming the enabler for the application, a powerful means to that end.

SDN will provide some disruption to the current mode of network operation, its inevitable but the result will be a more streamlined operating model, one that’s more reactive and agile to adapt at application cloud speed. SDN provides this flexible network-operating model; you choose the best network type to achieve what your business requires, be that a private cloud, through public clouds, or a hybrid approach.

I suggest you read Ben’s paper to get a clear baseline of SDN and its applicability to your situation. There are significant benefits that SDN provides in bridging the gaps between the worlds of IT and IP, to ensure that your network gets out of the way of your applications.

Reach me on Twitter: @jamesmcinroe


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