SDN In The Enterprise – Solving Real Problems


In our previous blogs, we talked about the advent of software-defined networking (SDN)-based infrastructure: its benefits and pitfalls, how it has the power to transform networks across carriers and enterprises, and what you should do to prepare for deployment of an SDN-based solution.

This week we want to take a look at a number of issues that, despite the advancement of hardware and software technologies and products, still prevail in the enterprise wide-area network (WAN).

These issues include:

  1. Branch/remote appliance bloat: In a remote office topology, the number of appliances that need to be configured, managed and secured, from firewall/security to routers to load balancers and application performance, has increased to the point of diminishing returns. The proliferation of required network and security services has resulted in a 1:1 ratio mapping of multi-vendor appliances, not optimized for remote site operation and management. More appliances at remote sites add to the complexity with multiple configurations (as well as lifecycle management), requiring either soft or hard moves, adds and changes while increasing annual operational costs.
  2. Increasingly complex security and compliance: Compounding the branch/remote appliance bloat issue described in our first point is that the proliferation of appliances is further complicated by the rigid provisioning processes of service providers. This contributes to the complexity and inefficiency of managing security and compliance controls.
  3. Application performance: Applications on a vendor-agnostic platform commonly lack the ability to leverage remote/branch site access and commodity customer-premises equipment (CPE) in a more efficient, cost-effective fashion. Further, commodity CPE does not provide prioritization and real-time visibility of business applications, aligned with security and corporate governance policies, while providing an optimal user experience (higher application performance).
  4. WAN configuration management, provisioning and performance: The WAN is unable to re-route traffic via policy, based on transport degradation and other network changes.
  5. Operational and management complexities resulting in provisioning and remediation inefficiencies: Varying degrees of bandwidth and other Internet access technologies, router configuration, maintenance and ongoing support becomes complex, contributing to the dual issues of high operating costs and low levels of control of the WAN.
  6. Increased reliance on carrier and higher costs: Reliance on the carrier has increased as have the CapEx and OpEx costs to build, support and run these large networks. Enterprises have become highly reliant on the carriers and/or MSPs for every change when it comes to their WAN.

Using SDN to address these issues starts with an approach and architecture that takes into account the aspects of the WAN operation, including identifying what parameters for scalability, efficiency, manageability and security need to be addressed.

SDN is ideal for reducing appliance bloat because control and configuration management of remote Network Functions (NFV) takes place in the data center or wherever the controller is located, significantly reducing complexity in the remote/branch sites.

Applications performance is enhanced on an SDN network through prioritization and real-time visibility. Business applications are better aligned with security and corporate governing policies, while providing an optimal customer/user experience.

SDN architecture resolves provisioning and remediation complexities by eliminating dedicated layer requests; routing decisions are automated and based on network service availability.

SDN also provides CapEx and OpEx relief by reducing appliance stacking and circuits, and by removing reliance on carriers through service automation.

By its nature, increased control and agility and reduced costs are the most significant long-term benefits of SDN; its virtualized networks, centralized control and automated network management features make it a highly efficient, flexible and functional system.

Next week, in Part 2 of this discussion, we’ll focus on the architectural considerations of SDN in the enterprise.

Are you ready to learn more about implementing SDN? Download our new e-book, Seriously Disruptive Networking: 8 Ways SDN Is Shaking Up The Industry.