SDNs: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

Are Software Defined Networks (SDN) on your short list yet?

Are Software Defined Networks (SDN) on your short list yet? Two recent surveys suggest it depends on where you work. I say that given our recent experiences with SDN, within five years and everyone will adopt or have definitive plans to adopt SDN technology. Here’s why:

SDNs, for those who’ve been sleeping with the pinecones of late, move intelligence previously locked within proprietary switching and routing hardware into open software. To put that in “networkese,” we separate the control plane from the forwarding plane using a protocol like OpenFlow. As such, SDN delivers on eight benefits:

  • Agility. OpenFlow-based SDNs create flexibility in how the network is used, operated, and sold. The software that governs it can be written by enterprises and service providers using ordinary software environments.
  • Speed. SDNs promote rapid service introduction through customization, because network operators can implement the features they want in software they control, rather than having to wait for a vendor to put it into plans for their proprietary products.
  • Cost Savings. Software Defined Networking lowers operating expenses and results in fewer errors and less network downtime because it enables automated configuration of the network and reduces manual configuration.
  • Better Management. OpenFlow-based SDN enables virtualization of the network, and therefore the integration of the network with computing and storage. This allows the entire IT operation to be governed more sleekly with a single viewpoint and toolset.
  • Planning. OpenFlow can be easily integrated with computing for resource management and maintenance.
  • Focus. OpenFlow-based SDN can better align the network with business objectives.
  • More Competition. As a standard way of conveying flow-table information to the network devices, it fosters open, multi-vendor markets.
  • Table Conversation. Instead of saying you working in networking at the next party, now you can say “I program the enterprise.” Now, how cool is that?

It’s no wonder in that a recent survey of service providers, Infonetics Research found that 80 percent of survey respondents are including OpenFlow in their purchase considerations. Rapid delivery of new services is essential for service providers and it’s a key benefit to SDN.

"While many uncertainties surround SDNs due to their newness, our survey confirms that the programmable network movement is real, with a good majority of service providers worldwide considering or planning purchases of SDN technologies to simplify network provisioning and to create services and virtual networks in ways not previously possible,” notes Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics Research.

On the more “curmudgeonary” side of life you have Mike Fratto noting that enterprises haven’t yet gone gaga over the whole SDN thing. “Enterprises aren't really ready for SDN quite yet, as the results from a recent InformationWeek survey of 250 IT professionals showed. Some 70% of respondents said they weren't even going to start testing SDN for at least a year.”

So which is it for you? Are you a service provider kind of guy or an enterprise kind of gal?

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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