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Considerations for Successful SDN Deployments

By: Sandeep Dhingra | 14 September 2016

Today, it is abundantly clear that transformation driven by virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) is a fundamental shift in network infrastructure. Companies are realizing that this foundational change provides the agility, cost and security they need. However, few have been able to actually realize the benefits, and adoption is not as fast as expected.

There are many reasons for this, but the prime difference between success and failure is the deployment approach. Companies that used a limited, network-only approach and tried to deploy SDN technology like any other previous networking shifts soon realized the impact of SDN goes beyond traditional networking.

Before we continue, please note that for the purposes of this blog, I will use SDN to represent not only SDN itself, but also other linked technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV) and network virtualization (NV).

Finding a New Approach to Network Management

A holistic approach that encompasses concerns regarding business, strategy, design, deployment and operations is required for SDN because SDN enables networks to be managed, consumed and operated like other IT infrastructure, such as storage or software.

Starting with an immediate problem and looking for an SDN solution to fix it is very tempting for the resource-starved enterprise. It's no surprise that in many organizations, SDN starts with a proof-of-concept or testing of some point solutions. For example, in a data center, microsegmentation offers a solution to the security issue of east-west traffic, which is a problem for most enterprises. Revamping an aging and old hybrid WAN infrastructure provides a compelling business use case as well.

Obviously, it's expected that businesses will address such immediate issues, and there is nothing wrong with considering SDN-based solutions. The problem is when such point SDN solutions are considered without the context of a broader IT or network strategy. A comprehensive enterprise network strategy helps ensure the network (and all point solutions and technology use cases) is aligned with IT/business initiatives such as cloud for workload migration, agility for IT-as-a-service, security or the Internet of Things.

Network strategy also helps in optimizing vendor selection for the environment. The solution is going to involve multiple vendors. Starting with a point solution without considering the broader strategy may turn out to be very expensive and risky, and it could lock you into approaches that inhibit future growth and optimization.

Addressing SDN Deployment Concerns

I am initiating a discussion on key considerations for SDN transformation taking a more holistic approach that includes business, strategy, design, deployment and operations. In the next few weeks, we will dig deeper into these considerations using actual concerns raised by clients. The following are some of the areas we plan to cover:

Business and Strategic Planning

  • How does SDN enable hybrid IT and hybrid cloud?
  • What are SDN and enterprise security considerations?
  • How, when and where should we start the SDN journey?

Design and Deployment

  • Is SDN an integration or migration? What are the various approaches and options?
  • What are the multivendor design and deployment challenges in SDN?
  • What does a successful deployment look like? What are the top 10 deployment issues?

Operations

  • What are SDN's implications for operations and IT management?
  • How will SDN impact the evolution of necessary enterprise IT skills and organizational practices?
  • What are the automation and orchestration considerations to fulfill the promise of SDN?

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