How To Successfully Prepare For SDN

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It seems that we keep hearing about SDN all the time and, rightly so, because most experts agree that it has the potential to dramatically change the data center. Whilst Software Defined Networking (SDN) is forecast to take off in 2015 we recommend you take your time and do your homework carefully.  

In our blog post ‘What is SDN – And Why It Matters’  in April 2014 we explained that SDN represents a new way of designing, building and managing networks and is on its way to transforming networking architecture.

The reality is that legacy networks are inundated with applications, traffic types and volumes putting many of them at breaking point. They just can’t cope with the demands placed on them with the advent of mobility, big data and server virtualisation.

The basic concept is that SDN separates the network’s control (brains) and forwarding (muscle) planes to make it easier to optimize each. De-coupling the data or traffic carrying plane and the control plane means that a formerly static network can become intelligent, responsive, programmable and centrally controlled.

SDN is designed to make your network as agile and flexible as the virtualised server and storage infrastructure of the modern data center and its goal is to allow network engineers and administrators to respond quickly to changing business requirements.

3 Steps in Adopting SDN

1. Understand what SDN actually is
The first step is to do your research and make sure you understand exactly what SDN is, the benefits it offers, the complications that can arise and the technical skills required.

2. Create a cross functional team
Adopting SDN requires a cross functional team of people who understand virtualisation, security, servers, storage and networking. Together they can determine if there is a sound business case for moving to SDN.

3. Evaluate your network
There’s really two parts to this step. The first is to understand exactly what you currently have in terms of equipment, whether you have enough capacity for the needs of the organisation, applications and services,
and whether it’s suitable for migrating to SDN. The next step is to document the requirements of SDN for your enterprise in relation to core requirements and migration requirements.

Questions to ask SDN Vendors

Once you’ve completed the planning stage and understand what you want to achieve you can start talking to vendors to determine who has the most suitable offering for your requirements. Here are some of the questions you should be asking them:

  • Which vendors do you partner with?
  • How does your architecture scale and how does this impact the existing network?
  • What does your product assume about my current environment?
  • What open software are you using?
  • Does your solution integrate with existing networks or do we have to replace everything?
  • What major functionality is proprietary and how does this effect multi-vendor interoperability?
  • What is your security model?
  • What are some use cases your product has been deployed for?
  • How do you help me get started with SDN?
  • What is your licensing model?
  • Are you publishing your APIs?
  • What programming languages do your APIs support?
  • What IT skills are required for me to take advantage of your technology?
  • How will you support this product

If you’re seriously considering migrating to SDN then choosing the right partner is one of the most important decisions that you’ll need to make. Understanding what SDN is and why you want to move to it will help you to determine which vendor has the right product for you. We suggest you interview several vendors and ask them some tough questions and then judge them on what, and also how, they respond. If you take the time and adopt a prudent approach to implementing SDN, you will be able to reap the benefits of SDN whilst reducing capital and operating costs.

Interested in SDN but not sure where to start? Call us on 1 300 780 730 and we’ll help you develop a plan to suit your business objectives.