Are CIOs Ready For The Arrival Of Software Defined Networking (SDN)?

Can we be honest for just a moment? Despite the importance of information technology, the way that all of us are building networks is just a little bit antiquated. We’ve been doing this stuff the same way for a very, very long time. The problem is that we’re still not very good at it. No matter how many CCENT, CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, etc. certified folks you have working on this problem, the networks that we are building have the same problems and limitations that networks have always had. Isn’t there a better way of doing this stuff?

What Google Did

Way back on December 10th, 2012 Google had an outage. This is actually a fairly big deal. Google spends a lot of money and hires a lot of very smart people in order to not have outages. This outage was a bit of a game changer for them: it opened their eyes to the fact that they could have outages that were no fault of their own but which were caused by fault’s in the company’s networks.

It was at around this time that Google and a number of other big name firms in the IT industry got seriously interested in a new way of building networks that is called Software Defined Networking (SDN). The promise of SDN is that it will allow the people with the CIO job to create corporate networks that are both easier to operate and cheaper to build. The arrival of SDN should make the big boys in the field of computer network gear, Cisco, Juniper, HP, IBM, etc. very, very nervous.

We build our corporate networks today using complicated devices purchased from companies like Cisco. Then, over time, we pay for expensive updates to both the hardware and the software that go into these devices. SDN offers us a different approach. SDN uses powerful software to create networks that can be reconfigured quickly via software and which does not require us to make a lot of complicated hardware changes. These networks are built using simple “white box” routers and thereby allow firms to save up to 50% on the cost of building a network.

Why SDN Matters

Technology fads come and go. Why should the people what have the CIO position take the time to learn more about SDN? One of the biggest motivations has to be cost savings. In a network that has been built using SDN technology, firms can expect to get more computing capacity out of their existing servers. Best estimates are saying that firms can expect to save US$500,000 from the cost of setting up and running a single rack of 40 high-end servers. In a single data center, the savings could be very large.

Another reason for firms to consider starting to build their networks using SDN is because SDN makes it easier to reconfigure the network. This means that when it comes time for a firm to launch a new application either for its customers or for its employees, a simple set of software changes that can be quickly and easily performed is all that will be required to configure the network to support the new service.

As evidence of just how important SDN has now become, venture capital firms have started to pour money into startup firms that are operating in this area. Large firms such as Brocade and VM have started to purchase smaller firms that are working on SDN products and Brocade just paid US$1.3B for SDN firm Nicira. Clearly the time for SDN networks has arrived!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are changing. The way that IT departments have traditionally built networks has resulted in networks that suffer from some serious limitations. Clearly something has to change. The arrival of the Software Defined Networking (SDN) approach to building networks may change everything.

Google is leading the way in building enterprise quality SDN networks. IT departments could potentially save up to 50% on how much they spend on their networks if they build them using SDN. Additionally, companies should be able to get more functionality out of the servers that they have in their network. The ability to reconfigure a network using software will make adapting to changing network conditions much easier for CIOs.

CIOs need to understand that the arrival of Software Defined Networking (SDN) presents the possibility of completely changing how we both build and operate our corporate networks. The ability to reduce costs and increase functionality means that every CIO needs to take a careful look at this new technology and determine if it is right for their corporate network.


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