Don’t do SDN, don’t get SDN – do “networking outcomes defined by software”.

Don’t do SDN. Quite simply there is nothing to be done as such. If the current industry hype is compelling you to “do SDN” or “get SDN” you may find you already have it (or a version of it). If you are a user of server virtualisation solutions with hypervisors and virtual switches you are already leveraging networking elements defined and delivered by software (but elements the MUST still drive hardware). To extend the discussion further if your organisation uses carrier based services (delivered by one of the major telecoms companies) you are already using network services like MPLS and VPLS that massively leverage elements defined in software to deliver the networking outcome you need (many call this network function virtualisation but this is somewhat semantic).

Therefore are you missing anything now or are you already a customer of the next big thing but were blissfully unaware? Enter that horrible response “Yes and Yes”, modern enterprise customers have embraced software defined networking ideals for quite a while however equally the software defined storyboard has been somewhat invisible to all but those learned technologists employed to design, build and support the platforms in question.

But now those more recent networking elements defined in software and grouped together under the SDN banner, paint a totally different picture even if many of the legacy network infrastructure elements are retained. The brave new defined world of SDN is all about open standards (preventing vendor lock in), accelerated innovation (by using open source ideals), potential for cost reduction (due to the hardware abstraction or any network hardware vendor ideology), true network agility (massively reducing time to market of applications and new business services) and most compelling of all, application awareness (to ensure applications control the network not vice versa).

It means that striving to “do SDN” makes little sense unless you are clear on the business outcome aligned aspects that are essential to realise.  With that in mind the “big tip” is to understand the SDN or network virtualisation elements that can deliver tangible value against a realistic operational plan. This must be the primary action for now, not an unchecked move to a new platform based on a features biased evaluation.

To that end now is the time to evaluate how ready your current networking platform (and security footprint) that underpins your business is to deliver the speed, agility and dynamism your business requires. And maybe is not a valid response. By understanding and leveraging the most viable elements of traditional networking approaches, interfaced with validated software defined and network virtualisation outcomes, the best of both worlds has the potential to deliver the best in the world outcome for your organisation.  The new dawn of the software defined IT enterprise will potentially be your best dawn ever……

Big claims maybe – try me !

Until next time

Colin W

Twitter @colinwccuk

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About Colin Williams

Colin is Computacenter's Practice Leader for Networking, Visual Collaboration & Security @colinwccuk

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