SDN: Your weapon for business agility

SDN: Your weapon for business agility

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April 14, 2016
CIO Cloud Strategy

Software-defined networking (SDN) is beginning to be adopted in nearly every industry. Just a few years ago, SDN technologies for the data center were a science-fair project for the technically curious. Now SDN is a critically strategic business agility weapon that I believe must be deployed right away to remain competitive in today’s digital world.

The digitalization of business happened "overnight"

CIOs were reluctant to adopt SDN because they didn’t understand the value. The typical IT structure is largely comprised of years and years of additions, moves, and changes. The average age of the core technologies found in a data center network exceeds 10 years. And if you look at the reference topologies and configurations in use in the data center, not much has changed in over 20 years.

CIOs who presided over these vast yet dated infrastructures didn’t see the need for new solutions to the old problems that they had already solved over and over again. They simply didn’t see that the world around them had changed – but it had.

Turning IT around

Conventional wisdom held that networks must be purpose-built for individual applications to ensure adequate performance and that each application needs its own networking topology that must be deployed in a manner that does not conflict with or impact the performance of any of the others. That’s how IT worked for the last 20 years, and that’s why data centers are considered so fragile and new projects can take months to complete. The inevitable result is an IT organization that is mired in quicksand and unable to respond to changing business needs in a timely fashion. And today, those needs can change daily.

CIOs look to the clouds

Every forward-looking organization is in the midst of IT transformation. They are looking for ways to deliver new IT delivered services for new business initiatives in projects that can be spun up in a matter of days. Public clouds had the luxury to tear up the traditional IT playbook and build extremely agile compute, storage, and networking. It was also a wake-up call for CIOs. The popularity of these public clouds proved there was a better way to deliver IT to meet fast-moving business, they simply had to find it.

Today, CIOs are looking to emulate the nimble capabilities offered by the public cloud providers by building their own agile data centers which requires all three of the key ingredients found in public clouds; virtualized computing, virtualized storage, and virtualized networking. 

The CIO’s life ring: SDN

Enter the private cloud. IT organizations are applying the lessons learned from public cloud vendors to create pools of resources that can be allocated to support new applications with the push of a button. The agility of this approach is undeniable.

SDN is a critical part of this shift. More than just a low-cost method to achieve traditional network switching, SDN allows the provisioning of networking resources in a way that’s agile and cost-effective. SDN does away with the complex and fragile networks of yesterday, enables smarter configurations that are self-aware and automated, supports any number of applications and multi-tenancy through segmentation, enhances an organization’s security profile, and provides deep insight into the critically important flow of business information used in modern applications such as big data and VDI.

Getting in the game, today

What’s more, this is happening now. Major enterprise systems vendors have wholly embraced the software-defined switching marketplace and the savviest Fortune 1000 companies are already deploying SDN solutions to solve their digital transformation and business agility needs. 

The days of the SDN science fair are over. It’s time for organizations to proactively leverage SDN on their way to becoming an agile resource that reacts instantly to the changing needs of the business.

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Sunay Tripathi is the co-founder and CTO of Pluribus Networks. Previously, he was a senior distinguished engineer for Sun Microsystems and chief architect for Kernel/Network Virtualization in Core Solaris OS. Sunay holds over 50 patents encompassing network and server virtualization.

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