Enterprise Networks Can Gain More Agility, Mobility with SDN
Date: Friday , May 20, 2016
Headquartered in Tokyo, Allied Telesis Group specializes in providing business-critical services like Software Defined Networking, IP Surveillance Networking, Ethernet, Converged Infrastructure, Managed Services to a vast global clientele.
SDN enables enterprises to easily add new devices and apps on the network, and significantly improves user experience by enabling new trends like BYOD and mobility. Software Defined Networking (SDN) has proven to be a very attractive technology among service providers and data center operators; however enterprises are taking longer to be convinced of its benefits. Although it first gained attention more than 15 years ago, many enterprises believe SDN is still not a proven technology. They fear that there is too much risk associated with its deployment in mission-critical networks and so remain reluctant to make use of it within their infrastructures.
As is the case with many evolving technologies, attitudes can often be based on perceptions rather than solid facts. Perceptions of SDN have been created through media coverage which has tended to focus on the service provider point of view. While acknowledging that SDN is delivering significant benefits in this sector, the coverage rarely looks at roll-outs in the enterprise space and the benefits that have been delivered there.
Attention has also tended to focus on the benefits of SDN that are of most interest to service providers which include network agility and better link utilization. However these are not the key benefits that enterprises seek and so many are unable to see any real value in the technology.
At its heart, SDN involves the abstraction of high-level networking functions from the underlying hardware. This allows network managers to make connection and bandwidth changes in software without needing to touch the hardware components.
What Enterprises Want from SDN
When discussing technologies such as SDN, it is important to realize that enterprise networks are not simply scaled-down versions of service provider networks. Designed and built to perform different functions, the two types may share some similarities yet they remain very different beast.
Enterprises need to know that any technologies they select and deploy are proven, low risk and will deliver quantifiable business benefits. For many, their network is regarded no differently from the plumbing in their office buildings. They just expect it to remain out of sight and work - and the less it costs to install and maintain, the better.
It should also be recognized that enterprise networks tend to be not particularly dynamic in nature. Once they are in place, they don\'t change a lot and so agility and rapid service provisioning (key benefits of SDN) are not significant requirements.
Also, if an enterprise needs more bandwidth to support growth or new applications, they simply install a bigger pipe. For this reason the link utilization capabilities of SDN are also not that important for them. SDN vendors need to understand where enterprise customers are coming from and their need to see quantifiable paybacks from any investments that they make. If this doesn\'t happen, their interest in SDN technology is likely to remain stilted.
Delivering Business Benefits through SDN
Of the networking issues highest on the list for enterprises to tackle, the largest tend to be end-user management, security and cost reduction. Therefore, technologies that can reduce costs, improve security and create a better user experience will capture their attention and attract their investments.
SDN can assist with cost reduction in a number of ways. The process of user on-boarding can be significantly streamlined which lowers the burden on IT departments and network managers. It also simplifies the task of troubleshooting which can remove further workload pressure for technicians.
SDN also offers the ability to readily apply consistent rules across an organization. Users can be provided with access only to the data and applications that are appropriate for their role, ensuring other areas remain off limits. The network can even be configured to communicate with the human resources system to make these changes automatically when a staff member changes roles or shifts departments.
Better security can be achieved through the ability to react immediately to threats, to automate user access control and achieve quarantining as required. SDN allows the constant scanning of internal data traffic movements to seek out potential problems. The technology can stop files from leaving the network and unauthorized data from entering it, thus significantly improving overall IT infrastructure security.
Meanwhile, an improved user experience can be gained through the ability to facilitate user mobility and BYOD. New devices can be readily added to the network without the need for complex configuration and without compromising security. SDN also offers enterprises the ability to improve the overall user experience of converged networks through rapid deployment of functions such as video calls and conferences.
Once it becomes more widely known that SDN can save money, improve efficiency and boost security, the technology will quickly become more attractive to larger numbers of enterprise customers. However, to reach this stage, more education is required around the maturity of the technology and the tangible benefits that it can deliver. Only through communicating the benefits of SDN for enterprises will its usage reach the levels currently enjoyed by service providers.