The Software Defined Network (SDN) is improving the agility of businesses everywhere. As a network architecture that provides increased control through the virtualization of software, the SDN enables businesses to improve the ease of configuration and management, increase security, support business continuity, and reduce the costs associated with innovation and business progress. Additionally – & this is the real icing on the cake – SDN is the perfect environment to begin simple, quick and scalable application development.

THE SOFTWARE DEFINED NETWORK:

A SDN is simply a specific type of network architecture. A SDN serves the same purpose of a traditional network (in that it facilitates the communication activity between your applications, software and data); however, it accomplishes this task in less time, with fewer costs, and without the typical headache that accompanies management and configuration of a traditional network. With the advent of the SDN, Software becomes virtualized – in other words, the software runs separately from the physical hardware. The “control” panel of a SDN becomes the bridge between business applications that passes through the network operating systems and interacts with the network devices & infrastructure. The control panel is the most important part of the SDN: Want to make changes quickly to all of your devices? Want to manage your security? Want to improve your business continuity? Want to monitor your applications? Look no further than the control panel that provides easy, agile management.

MANAGEMENT & CONFIGURATION:

A SDN is easier to manage and configure than a traditional network. Let’s say you want to make a change to your traditional network software. You have to begin the tedious, expensive, and frustrating process of physically installing software changes directly on your various hardware elements. To illustrate how this might be inefficient, consider the following analogy: let’s say that you have 500 employees (hardware), and you want to email each of them a $100 bonus (software update). Unfortunately, let’s also suppose that you can’t just send a mass email; instead, you have to address each employee one painstakingly-tedious email at a time. Obviously, it would be much easier to write one email (from a control panel) that automatically sends every employee (hardware) their hard-earned bonus (software update). Likewise, because of the nature of the SDN architecture, decisions about software changes can be made from one convenient control panel.

SECURITY:

The SDN improves security on networks, applications, and devices. Since your applications and software are connected virtually, you can monitor & update them all from once convenient location. Additionally, there is also improved security as a result of increased business continuity and constant availability of data, ensuring compliance with a variety of industry standards (such as HIPPA or PCI – DSS).

BUSINESS CONTINUITY:

The SDN works against system failures and improves the customer experience. In some ways, the SDN works for your IT environment similar to the way the cloud works for you. For example, imagine that you are working on a project that you have saved to the cloud; if your computer crashes, you can go to another computer and continue working on your project, because the data is stored not on a specific computer, but in a virtualized environment. The same thing takes place in an SDN architected environment; if a piece of equipment crashes, the data stored on the software is moved to another piece of equipment until you have time to fix the equipment. This also has the benefit not only of when your systems are continually running, your customers are able to access your network as often as you

COST SAVINGS:

The SDN minimizes all costs associated with operating a network. While traditional networks incur high resource costs in the form of labor, equipment, and inefficient management processes, the SDN centralizes those processes – enabling a more agile, resourceful and time-saving IT network architecture. Additionally, time to market for new applications is considerably faster since changes can be made right from the control panel. In terms of TCO and ROI, the SDN design allows flexibility of measuring the benefit at a port level, or even a network wide level.

NEXT STEPS:

So now you know that using a SDN is preferable (by a long shot!) to using a traditional network. What comes next?

  1. Train your IT professionals on the skills required to build & operate a SDN (short and long term) as well as educate them on the architecture, design principles, and interfaces they will encounter.
  2. Prepare for common challenges associated with migrating to a SDN. Research best processes, systems, vendors and tools that can make your SDN transition a success and create a plan to execute and measure.
  3. According to an article by the Open Network Foundation, it is important to get to know “the type of network, the nature of the existing equipment (e.g. hardware and/or software switches/equipment), and the type of control machine (e.g. routing protocol, switching protocols) currently deployed must all be specified. In some instances, the starting network might need to be brought to a “stable” state to become ready for migration.”
  4. Create a life-cycle plan that will see you through the entire SDN migration process.

This is an emerging environment with opportunity to learn and grow your enterprise.