In the modern data center, software-defined networking (SDN) has become the core because the technology offers too many benefits to ignore. However, SDN migration must be carefully planned. Here are the steps to take.
The chances are that even if you’re unaware of it, you’re already using software-defined networking (SDN) unless you have a very simple network and nothing in the cloud. Whenever you sign up for a virtual server from a cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, you’re leveraging software-defined technology. If you sign up for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, or any other public cloud service, the virtualized instances communicate with you and the rest of the world through a software-defined network.
However, that may not be the case in your own data center. It has been estimated that only about a quarter of on-premises networks use software-defined anything, and if they do, it is usually on a partial or siloed basis. One word sums up all the reasons: inertia. But fear comes close behind.
Software-Defined Networks: What Is It?
There are currently switches, routers, and other network devices in your data center and throughout your company, each with its own purpose. Although they’re managed by network management software, these devices have their own management software, often proprietary operating systems, and they need their own troubleshooting schema, which can be quite complicated.
By using SDN, each of these devices can be managed by a dedicated layer with a holistic view of the network, and even beyond the network if you’re employing hybrid or service-based architecture. Additionally, this layer also works on a functional level, so a software-defined router, for instance, will choose the best path for every packet from source to destination. By achieving single-layer optimization, previously difficult multi-layer tasks, such as optimizing traffic planning, become much easier since not only are the traffic and management tools at the software layer, but also the infrastructure.
But why should you change your organization’s network if it already works? You were locked into a specific way of networking with old-fashioned hardware.
Several benefits are associated with SDN. You can change a network’s topology, identity, and firewalls, as well as add antivirus and network monitoring software. Because everything is virtualized in software, IT administrators can not only quickly spin up virtual infrastructure but also store the templates for that infrastructure for future use even more quickly.
Reduced Network Costs with Software-Defined Networking
In addition to cost savings, SDN will also provide long-term benefits. That is often a significant expense even for midsized businesses. In the long run, replacing your existing infrastructure with programmable hardware will be cheaper than replacing it with non-programmable hardware.
From a resource perspective, SDN should be easier to deploy because you don’t have to hire an engineer with specialized knowledge of your gear. Instead, you need someone who knows how to manage the hypervisor layer and the virtual infrastructure management tool, both of which are often based on Linux. In the hands of networking experts, they’re often safer as well, since these people can build fully customized or app-optimized routers and switches from generic templates.
How do you get started with network automation using SDN?
There has been a significant shift in the provisioning, managing, and maintaining of network services as a result of developments in Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).
Businesses can benefit greatly from network automation, from having more control over changes to their networks to reducing maintenance and provisioning times.
In line with the ‘as-a-service model of consumption that has gained popularity over the last decade, the easiest way for businesses to implement network automation is to adopt a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model.
Be Careful When Planning Software-Defined Networks
Despite the hype, SDN represents a paradigm shift in network management and operations, and any such change should be carefully planned. Four suggestions are provided here:
- The first thing to do is to think about what your network topology will look like in a couple of years. What features and functions will you need in the future?”
- Would you prefer that it be in-house or outsourced?
- “Look at what other people in your industry are doing. See what is changing or not changing.”
- Next, you should speak to a network consultant, or if you have a dedicated shop, such as one with only Cisco equipment, then you should contact Cisco, or whatever company provides your infrastructure. Since many of them have invested in SDN, it makes sense to look there early on.
You can apply the same calculations you used when choosing a cloud service to SDN. Is it cheaper to pay someone to manage your network, along with buying the infrastructure, or the monthly cost of networking as a service?
Making the network switch doesn’t mean closing your business. It is possible to migrate your network over time, bringing software-defined networking to those areas that need it most, such as video, business-class voice over IP (VoIP), or virtualized servers in the data center, and then expanding it to other parts of your legacy network.
The trend toward software-defined networks is just beginning.
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