Embracing SDN: Understanding the Advantages and Challenges of New Network Technology

Software defined networking (SDN) is transforming business infrastructure models. The ability to support multiple technologies through redefined network architecture offers businesses superior networking capacities at a significantly lower cost than traditional hardware-based models. The results provide companies with real answers for improving network security, scalability, and performance, regardless of size.

However, this new method of increasing network efficiency also presents new challenges for network managers concerning those very same areas.

SDN offers businesses practical opportunities for responding to the emerging demand for personal IT services, while simultaneously providing realistic support and responsiveness for user needs. Yet deploying this flexible, more modern network architecture without compromising the reliability of legacy network performance requires a new approach to ensure that the exchange of digital information is more efficient than ever.

Growth Trends

The modern data center, with virtualized servers and advanced storage capabilities, has outlined SDN parameters. Open standards allow SDN-enabled hardware control policies to be individualized, and a centrally managed, programmable network allows for maximum business efficiency. Market analyst IHS, Inc. reports that SDN revenues grew over 80% in 2015, and experts predict that that trend will continue.

These revenues indicate that within the next few years, more and more enterprise networks will become virtualized, eventually generating a completely new environment for network managers. Data centers based on software constructs will necessitate skills in storage, server, and virtual infrastructure.

Challenges

Adapting to new technology can be a challenge, especially when dealing with a highly dynamic, increasingly distributed infrastructure. Network managers can address those difficulties by examining the issues and developing actionable solutions.

  • Security—Coding is an essential aspect of SDN, but it also presents one of the biggest challenges for network managers. New network applications can unwittingly introduce security threats that extend throughout the network, from either a centralized or partially distributed controller.
  • Scalability—Bottlenecks can still happen with software constructs, particularly with certain high-use controllers. Managers can overcome the difficulty by splitting control planes, but it requires a keen awareness of potential convergence and configuration requirements.
  • Performance—Maintaining controller response times and preventing latency can be difficult when transitioning legacy data environments to SDN. Network managers must develop their skills for managing and generating virtual functions and services, but also learn specific programming for building platforms and automation in a policy-based architecture.

SDN is delivering actionable opportunities for businesses that need to increase the agility and flexibility of their networks to meet the demands of today’s dynamic marketplace. However, the changes will redefine network management responsibilities, so companies need to be prepared.

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