It might be easy to dismiss software-defined networking as a lot of hype. So far, there's been a lot of SDN talk but few actual implementations. However, the emerging technology promises compelling enterprise benefits, according to a recently released InformationWeek report.
The report, "5 SDN Business Benefits," singles out several major reasons why businesses should consider building an SDN. Bottom line: It’s too early to expect immediate payoffs, but get informed now.
“Don’t try to construct an ROI spreadsheet for SDN yet; any financial model will necessarily be based on assumptions bordering on SWAGs. But do realize that SDN is no passing fad," wrote Kurt Marko, the report's author.
SDNs, which allow networking hardware to be made malleable and remotely manageable to an unprecedented degree by software, have barely started to make their dent in the enterprise. A survey of IT professionals conducted by InformationWeek in July 2012 showed that 30% of those polled had no plans to test an SDN deployment, with only 9% either currently testing or using an SDN in production. And 37% of those surveyed admitted they had no plans to even deploy SDNs at all.
[Read how global telecom carriers are beginning to deploy SDN in "Software-Defined Networks Gaining Traction Among Carriers." ]
Still, those surveyed said they see potential SDN benefits, with 66% citing more efficient and automatic network management and provisioning. The InformationWeek report digs into five SDN benefits, summarized here:
1. Service provisioning speed and agility: Setting up networks in an SDN can be as easy as creating VM instances, and the way SDNs can be set up is a far better complement to VMs than plain old physical networks.
2. Network flexibility and holistic management: SDNs enable “network experimentation without impact”--meaning one can leap over the limits imposed by SNMP and experiment freely with new network configurations without being hamstrung by their consequences.
3. Better and more granular security: VMs have made network security a headache and a half. SDNs can provide the kind of fine-grained security for apps, endpoints and BYOD devices that a conventional hard-wired network can’t.
4. Efficiency and lower operating expenses: The exact cost savings of SDNs is still in doubt--for example, it's unclear whether it might simply shift costs to controllers and software. Still, 50% of the administrators surveyed who use SDNs said they sold the technology to their business executives as a money-saving methodology. And while many of those polled see lower hardware costs as a big SDN selling point, the bigger opportunity is lower opex costs due to improved network management efficiency, according to the report.
5. Virtual network services, lowered capex: Even if the biggest benefits for SDNs will be in big-league data centers, there’s still plenty of ways for enterprises to lower their capex --both by making better use of what enterprises already have, and by lessening dependencies on proprietary hardware and dedicated appliances.
The report concludes with a few recommendations: Stay educated about SDNs through Network Computing’s SDN Buyer’s Guide; think holistically, not divisively, about your IT needs; and be wary of SDN products that aren’t actually SDN.