As the enterprise edge transitions to an all wireless network, software-defined networking (SDN) and OpenFlow are emerging as a way to bring new levels of agility to organisations.
"With mobile devices and cloud services reshaping how we work, live and play, people expect fast, reliable Wi-Fi everywhere. For IT, meeting the exploding mobility demand requires a more agile wireless LAN," says Brett Liddle, Territory Sales Manager – Australia and New Zealand, Meru Networks.
"As the network edge transitions to all-wireless, SDN and OpenFlow are emerging as a way to bring new levels of agility and let IT meet users’ expectations for a superior application experience from their mobile devices."
But according to Liddle, tablets, smartphones and laptops are just the beginning, with billions of other devices expected to be connected wirelessly, continuing to drive productivity, efficiency and fun.
Gartner estimates that 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020 and with the rapid growth of mobility and cloud services, the wireless LAN is becoming the primary access method.
With next-generation 802.11ac technology delivering gigabit throughput today, the transition to an all-wireless access network will only accelerate.
"SDN can have a transformative power on networks," Liddle adds. "As organisations move to virtualisation and the cloud, they see that the manual configuration of legacy data centre networks is time-consuming and error-prone.
"A virtual server can be created in minutes, but changing the underlying network may take days or weeks. SDN has emerged to remedy this problem.
"SDN-enabling the network can pave the way to deliver consistently high performance for essential business applications."
According to Liddle, key applications can be prioritised over the virtual network, which ensures a consistent user experience.
A more agile access network can better meet the exploding demand for applications and services, letting IT deliver more network services at a faster pace with fewer or the same resources."
Five benefits of SDN-enabling the wireless LAN SDN for Wi-Fi lets organisations:
1. Create and enforce unified policies network-wide: With SDN, IT policies are defined once and then enforced consistently across the wired and wireless LANs.
Users have a uniform experience, regardless of their access method.
2. Build a smarter network that adapts to business needs programmatically: With SDN, the network becomes more intelligent and changes dynamically in response to application and business needs.
With SDN enabled across the network, IT can enforce service levels to automatically deliver the necessary network performance, quality of service or security.
Open, standards-based APIs make it easy to create SDN applications, which directly and programmatically communicate their network requirements and desired network behaviour to the SDN controller.
3. Unify management of the wired and wireless network: Having single-pane-of-glass management for the wired and wireless LAN simplifies network operations and lowers costs.
Administrators can view clients using a single tool, no matter which network they’re on, and they gain greater visibility into the unified network. Network administrators finally can put an end to swivel-chair management.
4. Have greater choice of vendors: SDN is open and standards-based, and it lets IT mix and match network components from different vendors. Ultimately, greater choice creates competition in the market, and that drives innovation.
5. Simplify network provisioning and lower total cost of ownership: Because an SDN-enabled network responds dynamically to changing policies and traffic loads, the network administrator is freed from manual, time-consuming tasks.
That lets administrators focus more on strategic work, rather than configuring and reconfiguring network devices to meet the business needs. And ultimately, that lowers the cost of network operations.