Value-added resellers (VARs) tackling network infrastructure projects for cloud providers and enterprise customers should take note of the growing excitement that software-defined networking (SDN) is generating.
Increasing interest in adopting this technology presents integrators with an opportunity to add value to their IT infrastructure engagements with customers that are eager to reduce the complexities of network management by implementing SDN software designed to make networks centrally programmable, easy to administer, and faster to configure.
Smart integrators evaluating data center networking across the broader enterprise and cloud service provider markets probably realize by now that their ability to increase the number of SDN implementations can drive growth into their business models while fulfilling customer needs to advance network flexibility.
According to an IDC study, the worldwide SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segment will increase from $960 million in 2014 to more than $8 billion by 2018. The study also identified a number of areas in the SDN ecosystem that will receive attention. Integrators should note that IDC’s forecast includes growth in in-use physical network infrastructure, controller and network-virtualization software, SDN network and security services and related applications, and SDN-related professional services.
The desire to implement SDN software is a reflection of the challenges network administrators currently face. Many networks today do not allow administrators to easily implement network-wide policies or manually add or move devices.
Furthermore, as networks handle a growing amount of work, the demand for scalability to accommodate that growth is a feature that SDN is designed to provide. Additionally, the system of dependence on a specific vendor’s devices and protocols becomes obsolete when SDN is implemented through an open, standards-based architecture.
Because SDN changes network operations, VARs should be a critical part of the discussion, especially at a time when the demands of big data, cloud computing, mobile technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT) applications require a new paradigm shift to keep up with the dynamic computing and storage needs of today’s data centers.
According to the Open Network Foundation (SDN is open standards-based and vendor-neutral), the technology enables network administrators to change their infrastructure so that they can make the network:
- Directly programmable: Network control is directly programmable because it is decoupled from forwarding functions.
- Agile: Abstracting control from forwarding lets administrators dynamically adjust network-wide traffic flow to meet changing needs.
- Centrally managed: Network intelligence is (logically) centralized in software-based SDN controllers that maintain a global view of the network, which appears to applications and policy engines as a single, logical switch.
- Programmatically configured: SDN lets network managers quickly configure, manage, secure, and optimize network resources via dynamic, automated SDN programs, which they can write themselves because the programs do not depend on proprietary software.
As data center architecture evolves and the benefits of a hyper-converged infrastructure, virtualization, and cloud computing take hold, SDN is emerging as an approach that gives VARs a chance to help customers change their networks in fundamental ways.
When VARs build their business models to include SDN, they should consider vertical markets where SDN adoption rates are still relatively low such as government, healthcare, and education. Additionally, when discussing SDN implementation, integrators will find that the benefits of SDN, particularly the software’s ability to enable administrators to centrally control and configure the network, will resonate with customers.
The cost of running a network with an SDN platform is also an attractive selling point. Because SDN allows administrators to change the rules for any network switch, administrators can use less expensive commodity switches and still have a highly granular level of control over network traffic.
Essentially, SDN is a technology that can shift the conversation between integrators and their customers. During the next three years, we’ll see the number of SDN initiatives rise. When this occurs, integrators must take advantage of the opportunity and impress upon their customers that they should be thinking about SDN as a software platform that will support their network goals and objectives in the years ahead.