The nature of business is constantly changing; customers are demanding faster, more responsive services, and as a result, firms need to ensure that their backend technology is up to scratch. Increasing adoption of the cloud, mobility and big data technologies has encouraged the IT department to address how they can best support these developing trends whilst benefiting the customer and employee experience.
By looking at the heart of their infrastructure, the network, businesses can provide more agile and flexible IT services that can quickly meet user demand. So what improvements can be made to the networks to satiate customer demand?
A software defined network (SDN) is emerging as an obvious approach for technology decision makers, empowering them to provide a faster, more agile and scalable infrastructure. SDN is considered the next evolution of the network, providing a way for businesses to upgrade their networks through software rather than through hardware – at a much lower cost.
SDN provides holistic network management and the ability to apply more granular unified security policies whilst reducing operational expenses such as the need to use specific vendor hardware and additional technology investments. In fact, IDC recently predicted that this market is set to grow from $960 million in 2014 to more than $8 billion by 2018, globally.
A Growing Trend
Datacentres and service providers have, until now, been the most common adopters of SDN solutions. As a result there has been a notable improvement in better customer service and faster response times with firms deploying new and innovative applications quicker than ever. In the past year, we have seen firms in sectors like healthcare and education take advantage of the technology. However, while SDN is developing quickly, it is still in its early stages, with several industries yet to consider it.
There is a focus to encourage more firms to recognise the benefits of SDN in the form of the OpenDaylight Project. The OpenDaylight Project is a collaborative open source project which aims to accelerate the adoption of SDN – having already laid the foundation for SDN deployments today, it is considered to be the central control component and intelligence that allows customers to achieve network-wide objectives in a much more simplified fashion. The community, which includes more than a dozen vendors, is addressing the need for an open reference framework programmability and control enabling accelerated innovation for customers of any size and in any vertical.
Driving Business Insights
Looking ahead to the future for this new way of networking, there are a number of ways SDN can benefit the business. For example, SDN looks set to emerge as the new choice for deploying analytics in an economical and distributed way – in part due to the flexible nature of its infrastructure and the growing prominence of APIs – as the SDN optimized network can be maintained and configured with less staff and at a lower cost.
Data analytics-as-a-service is being tipped as the vehicle that will make big data commoditised and consumable for enterprises in the coming years; analyst house IDC found that by 2017, 80% of the CIO’s time will be focused on analytics – and Gartner predicts that by 2017 most business users and analysts in organisations will have access to self-service tools to prepare data for analysis themselves.
However, the right network environment will be key so that data analytics has the right environment to flourish. An SDN implementation offers a more holistic approach to network management with the ability to apply more granular unified security policies while reducing operational expenses. Being able to manage the network centrally is a huge benefit for firms as they look to increase innovation and become more flexible in response to changing technology trends.
Using analytics in tandem with a newly optimized SDN can empower IT to quickly identify any bottlenecks or problems and also help to deploy the fixes. For example, if a firm notices that one of their applications is suffering from a slow response time and sees that part of the network is experiencing a lot of latency at the same time, it could immediately address the issue and re-route traffic to a stronger connection.
Realising the Potential of SDN
In order to implement an SDN solution, it will be imperative for enterprises to firstly make themselves familiar with the technology and its components, create cross functional IT teams that include applications, security, systems and network to get an understanding what they wish to achieve and secondly, investigate best-of-breed vendor solutions that can deliver innovative and reliable SDN solutions which leverage existing investments without the need to overhaul longstanding technologies. This way, businesses can reap the benefits of SDN whilst saving time as well as money and mitigate risk.
Using analytics and SDN in combination is just one future possibility which could make it far simpler for businesses to deploy servers and support users in a more cost-effective and less resource-intensive way. It can also provide an overall improved user experience. With SDN offering the power to automate and make the network faster and big data providing the brains behind the operation; it’s an exciting match that could be an enterprise game changer.
Written by Markus Nispel, vice president of solutions architecture and innovation at Extreme Networks