The myths and misconceptions
As with any new technology, SDN has not existed without its naysayers. Before any business looks to implement an SDN solution, it is important to understand the truth behind some of the biggest misconceptions:
SDN does not work for small data centres:
SDN is often talked about as being only suitable for large-scale data centres — those that provide cloud services that are public, private or hybrid.
While these larger providers are naturally among the early adopters, the truth is that SDN can be hugely beneficial for all levels of data centres.
Not least because it can make configuration, management and monitoring a much simpler task, which can greatly reduce the burden on the IT department– perfect for small firms with lean teams.
SDN will mean the end for many IT jobs:
The notion that SDN-enabled environments will require less hands-on effort to keep them up and running compared to traditional networking environments is true, but it does not mean that the traditional network manager role will disappear.
As businesses transition to SDN models, the demand for network skills will only increase and remain as it continues to evolve.
What is true is that the type of skills needed in the New IP era will change – businesses and IT professionals should be aware of this and should be tailoring their training and development plans accordingly.
SDN is not required if servers are already virtualised:
This is simply not true. It is the case that extending the principals of server virtualisation to the network by swapping out traditional hardware with a more agile virtualised network infrastructure will bring more of the same important benefits.
However, SDN can also do a great deal more, in particular it can allow the network to extend into the server and provide efficient management and visibility of inter-server traffic.
The entire data centre network needs to be replaced in order to implement SDN:
The ‘rip and replace’ method is not a requirement of a successful SDN. With several ways to migrate from traditional networking infrastructure to SDN, it can be as simple as making SDN devices the default choice for networking components as part of the existing hardware refresh plan or deploying SDN whenever new equipment is added for new projects or expansion.
Beyond the network of today
Misconceptions aside, it is clear that SDN has the potential to radically change the face of the data centre.
It’s ushering in a new way of networking that is, reducing costs, creating scalable businesses and equipping organisations for the greater demands of tomorrow.
However, SDN’s future is closely linked to the establishment of clear and genuinely open industry standards.
The creation of open standards is the only way to guarantee that network products will be interoperable regardless of the manufacturer, something which is vital to avoiding vendor lock-in and enabling an all-important holistic approach to network management.
Thankfully, the shift to open standards in already underway with leading organisations, such as OpenDayLight, OpenFlow and OpenStack, putting pressure on the industry to take openness seriously.
As part of the New IP approach to networking, SDN has the potential to turn the promise of new and evolving technologies like cloud, Big Data, the Internet of Things and seamless mobility into a reality.
While CIOs and IT Directors alike are still taking stock of SDN, it is undeniable that businesses that want to be compete in the future need to be evaluating their existing infrastructures and thinking carefully about how SDN will fit in with their long-term networking strategies.
By Andy Miller, Country Manager, Brocade New Zealand