SDN evolving landscape [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]
(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Software-defined technology as a concept is quickly gaining momentum within the region in the field of network architecture. The worldwide software-defined networking (SDN) market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments is forecast to grow from a mere $360 million in 2013 to a whopping $3.7 billion by 2016. While there is a growing understanding of SDN among IT organisations in the region, there is still more education necessary before the full benefits of the technology can be realised, according to Asfar Zaidi, Principal Consultant from Huawei Enterprise.
The rapid evolution of internet services and other technologies is creating three critical problems for the traditional networking deployments, Zaidi said. The lack of user experience guarantees, including a lack of quality control over bandwidth service, impacts on the user experience and damages customer relationships.
Inefficient service deployment is also a challenge whereas the static nature of traditional networks, with separate services and networks, has meant that the network is inefficient in responding to dynamic services that require timely adjustments. Thirdly is the slow adaptation to new services, as traditional networks can be very slow to upgrade features, adjust architectures, or introduce new devices to meet changing business requirements—hampered by the fact that physical devices cannot adjust easily or quickly enough.
"In this environment, companies like Huawei have seen that Software-Defined Networking (SDN) can be used as an effective approach to addressing users' issues by connecting isolated services with the network, as well as ironing out speed and efficiency concerns by enabling the network to automatically adapt to the service changes and requirements," Zaidi said.
Zaidi highlights that SDN delivers several key benefits that are intended to overcome the challenges facing traditional networks. The openness of SDN allows an increasing number of networks and services to connect, enabling new and faster ways to collaborate within the network. To improve service-quality detection and troubleshooting in connectionless transmissions, new technologies will be introduced to allow the network to identify the services it transmits and automatically make adjustments for quality requirements.
In terms of centralised control, more and more functions will be controlled in a centralized manner as the SDN architecture removes the control functions from the IP network devices onto a separate server called the controller. Through global centralized controls, IT managers have complete visibility of the network all on one dashboard, resolving typical problems quickly from network traffic to scheduling.
SDN-enabled networks also allow the virtual platforms to provide flexible device capabilities, facilitating new service deployment and management.
In terms of the commercial and economic benefits, Zaidi said that the objective of SDN remains simple — to help enterprises address problems in the existing network architecture and to ultimately add value to business operations. This can be seen in several practical applications:On-demand network
Primary among SDN's benefits is its ability to provide an on-demand network, which satisfies ever more insistent service requirements. To meet the diversified requirements of actual customers, SDN provides full openness and programmability at the network device layer, control layer, and management collaboration layer. Users can then quickly deploy new services without the need for hardware upgrades.Highly efficient service deployment
Another key benefit of SDN is the highly efficient service deployment that results in big savings in a business's operational costs. With a diversified interface provided by SDN, an enterprise's existing offerings can be connected with new services, and the network can be customised to allow those new services to get online faster.E2E network quality guarantee
An SDN-enabled network also guarantees an E2E network quality for organisations, which improves the service experience. Traditional networks often lack basic service-experience guarantee mechanisms because services are isolated from the networks. Today's SDN solutions use a service-friendly architecture that can be deployed based on existing network resources, offering customization and timely, centralized management as well as dynamic adjustments to the network, including real-time service quality and fault detection.
Although there are clear benefits to SDN, organisations still need to consider several factors that will affect their adoption of the technology, Zaidi explained.
"Networks and backbones perform such a core and critical role in corporate IT operations that with SDN still at a concept phase for many, it stands to reason that organisations would prefer to continue exploring the trend before they are ready to make the transition to a full virtual network at this time. Also, because commercialisation of SDN is still in its early phases, it can be difficult to deploy a pure SDN system on large-scale networks," he said.
"As SDN develops, hybrid networking will likely take over in the short to mid-term. With hybrid networking and a collaboration controller, enterprises can take advantage of SDN features protecting existing investment. In addition, a hybrid network will allow seamless migration to a full SDN architecture when required."
In order to best proceed with SDN, CIOs should work with their systems integrator partners to review the readiness of their current networks to support SDN deployment. They should identify those areas with the highest business reward, in terms of prioritising specific challenges and where SDN can have the most immediate impact, and to map the competitive advantage of each vendor's offerings to their specific requirements.
Organisations should also look to SDN solutions that are based on open source standards, such as the OpenFlow standard, which will enable a greater deal of flexibility and more options for developing and adopting solutions.
"The open-source model has a lot to offer the business world as a way to build actual software with open standards. It is a way that many companies and individuals can collaborate on a product. It means rapid bug-fixes and the changes that the user can ask for anytime. The open-source model can also mean increased security. As the code is in the public view, it gives full exposure for greater assessment and evaluation so that problems can be identified and fixed quickly," Zaidi concluded.
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