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Are You Talking to Your Clients About These Disadvantages of SDN?

December 01, 2017

Are You Talking to Your Clients About These Disadvantages of SDN?


It has been almost shocking how quickly computing tasks that were once handled exclusively at the hardware level have been made possible on the software level. For instance, only a few years ago, an enterprise data center could demand many physical servers. Now, thanks to advances in virtualization, the number of physical servers that an enterprise needs has been drastically reduced, and the benefits have been obvious. The amount of financial resources that businesses have to invest in physical servers has been drastically reduced, and so has the amount of office space that businesses have to dedicate to them.

In the wake of new technological innovations, researchers have been looking toward ways to further increase convenience, maximize functionality, and limit capital expenditure by abstracting what usually requires discrete pieces of hardware out on the software level. This has included revisiting the notion of software-defined networking (SDN) for enterprise usage.

While some claim that SDN will have as fundamental an impact on network architecture as virtualization has had on server management, others are advising caution. Though SDN may offer granular and creative ways of managing packet flow for those with top-notch networking skills, it might also pose problems that an in-house tech wouldn’t recognize. So if your clients have been reading the trades and want to know how implementing SDN on their network could possibly benefit them, you should make them aware of these following potential disadvantages.

Big Potential Security Concerns for SDN

With the kind of granular and dynamic control of network traffic that SDN can provide come some big potential security risks. For instance, hackers could theoretically break into an SDN controller and use it to surreptitiously reroute traffic on the software level, wicking off and sniffing data in a man-in-the-middle attack as the information passes through on its way to its destination. And because the controller represents a single point of access to the network, as opposed to how things are laid out in a distributed plane architecture, it would provide a target that hackers would look for—and one that could present exploits that a network administrator might not be able to easily pick up on.

SDN: The Big Question Mark

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage facing SDN is one that all new technologies face. Namely, we don’t know what we don’t know. Because the architecture hasn’t been broadly implemented on enterprise networks, we simply don’t have a clear picture of what problems it will pose and what skill sets it will require on the part of IT staff to troubleshoot interruptions or manage security incidents.

Your Clients Might Not Be Ready for SDN—Nor SDN for Them

SDN is big in the world of research and development. Researchers are always pursuing the discovery of use cases that can justify its implementation, and vendors are increasingly offering support for it. But this does not mean that it’s time to take the dive. If your clients are wondering about what SDN can do for them, it might be a good bet to adopt a wait-and-see approach about how the technology develops, what standards are set, and what security provisions are implemented.

Have you seen SDN help or hurt an enterprise where it was implemented?