Putting to rest 3 persistent SDN myths

Software Defined Networking is critical today, actually enhances network monitoring, and is great for network pros

mystery myth
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Although vendor-written, this contributed piece does not promote a product or service and has been edited and approved by Network World editors.

What if your network was more than just a collection of hardware and cables strung together over the years to solve specific problems?  What if your network was agile enough to empower your business today and offer deep insight into the flow of information throughout your data center? What if this network could adapt to your changing business needs at the drop of a dime and help ensure no opportunity slips through the cracks?

Sounds like a dream, but in fact its very much possible today.

SDN is a pivotal technology capable of supporting your business agility goals and enabling private cloud experiences. As is typical with any new technology, however, marketplace hype and outright misinformation can overshadow the facts.  Here are three SDN myths you’ve probably heard that must be put to rest:   

* Myth #1: SDN is interesting academically, but not essential in today’s world.  SDN takes many forms, but each shares an important characteristic – they allow data center networks to be built prior to the selection of the applications to be run, and provide a standardized approach to adding capacity, with the ability to carve-out resources with the click of a button whenever a new application is required.

The public cloud, after all, has demonstrated that when elastic compute, storage and network architectures are built properly, any combination of these resources can be applied to new problems in minutes rather than months and with the touch of a button (and the charges associated with that luxury).  The elastic principles seen in the public cloud is what’s fueling the desire to replicate the capabilities internally in private clouds, and SDN is critical to private clouds.

* Myth #2: Virtualization of the data center and its applications make network monitoring expensive and impractical.  IT organizations are obligated to uphold a quality of experience, which includes application performance tracking. It needs to be acknowledged that traditional approaches to network analytics have had limitations and drawbacks, which seemingly become worse as the workloads are virtualized across the data center.

While it is true that traditional packet-level network monitoring is no longer representative of true application performance, the technology exists today to monitor flows of information, rather than packets. With advanced SDN solutions, the deployment of a single network that includes flow-level analytic capabilities already baked in, avoids unforeseen complexities and can cut monitoring overhead and CAPEX by roughly 70%-80%.

* Myth #3: SDN Is the death knell for network jobs.  SDN actually helps network engineers deliver results faster and allows them to focus on forward-thinking projects capable of positively impacting the wider business. IT organizations have always been under pressure to deliver new business services quickly. With traditional network technologies, a network professional’s best-case scenario is to simply complete projects on schedule, even with those schedules that sometimes span as long as six months or more. 

SDN transforms networks from complex and fragile structures to drivers of performance through smarter use of segmentation, automation and fabric-level visibility. It allows network IT pros to accelerate the delivery of projects and in turn new business revenues streams and enhance their own business-oriented skillsets and careers by focusing less on manually configuring hardware and more on critical thinking and strategic problem solving.

As SDN continues to see investment by vendors and end-users alike, and various trendsetters continue to champion the business value it provides, the noise surrounding the space and its potential benefits will only continue to grow. When considering any type of major capital investment, IT decision-makers would best be advised to do what they already do best when it comes to potentially engaging a solution provider and deploying a new technology – undertake research, demand reference requests and trust the gut.

As technologists, our interest is naturally drawn toward discussions of protocols and speeds, however, in today’s digital-centric environment, understanding the business value technology delivers is just as urgent. By moving past the above myths, when it comes to SDN, that process should become a little bit easier.

Tripathi is the CTO at Pluribus Networks.

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