Can SDN Address the Challenges in Enterprise Networking?

Manu Sharma, Director – IT and Corp Security, OnMobile Global Limited

Enterprise Networking Has A Complete New Paradigm Today

Last 5-10 years have been both exciting and challenging. Business needs have changed; and consumers are at core of this epic change. Applications continue to evolve at much faster pace both vertically and horizontally. Consumerization, IOT, Cloud services, Mobility, Smart cities, E-commerce, Big Data, Virtualization etc. are at forefront of this stirring transformation journey. Legacy networks are no longer able to keep pace. Port density and speed, are no longer drivers in decision-making process.

The shift is towards WAN. Agile and Scalability is mantra. Managing complexities and Security is pivotal. It is about all about Applications. High performance and Uptime are implicit assumptions. CIOs are challenged every day to adopt a new way of thinking and come up with innovative methodologies to meet the ever-changing demand of high performance and state of ArtNetwork. Key objective is, not only to deliver a seamless experience to end consumer by reducing CAPEX & OPEX expense, but also address challenges of Standardization, Security, and Management of multiple devices, complex configuration and routing decisions, monitoring capabilities and self-healing through automated intelligence, smart analytics along with Control and Governance framework spanning often across multiple geographical locations.

Does SDN provide a viable opportunity? SDN allows network architecture to have a direct programming control, dynamically adjust routing workflows, centralized capabilities, and a vendor neutral approach providing simplified network design across multiple devices. It creates a leaning environment on top of network plane and acts as consolidated repository of information, which can be used to perform intelligent decisions automatically.

SDN is at forefront of transformation journey and lately there has been a good adoption of technology across industry verticals. The journey towards SDN model of Enterprise network has its own challenges and considerations, Integration, performance, inter-operability, implementation & Operational changes, eco-system, Success measurement etc. should form a pivotal part of decision-making process along with routine TCO and value proposition analysis.

Organizations running traditional networking approach with combination of cloud and network virtualization is best suited in terms of feasibilities and viabilities. Industries like technology service providers or financial services have been early adopters of SDN and have found strong business sense in SDN. Dynamics of change and integration comes with their own baggage of challenges. While this varies from organization to organization and depends on current state of deployments, it is a journey. Set short-term & long-term goals in reaching the end objective. Once integrated, there may be no “easy” turning back.

SDN requires a certain set of pre-requisites to be in place and deliver the intended value. Know if you have the existing eco-system to add an SDN layer, else the TCO benefits may take a very long time to materialize. Conduct an extensive PoC’s to ensure fitment and suitability. SDN’s induce new security risks. Centralized management and control is also a single point of failure. Cyber security is most important. With massive proliferation of new types of threats, vulnerabilities, ransom-ware, malicious intents etc. a simple compromise can pose leave a big continuity loss and business impact. It calls for a new set of security controls around SDN infrastructure.  Depending on organization’s existing setup, type and objectives, SDN brings a completely new tangent to architecture, and may call for a complete re-design of it. This usually has a steep learning curve for IT professional to implement & managing changes before actual delivery of intended value. Journey towards SDN migration should start well in advance. Ensure that sufficient security controls are in place. Have a relook into existing security capabilities, policies and do modifications in terms of processes, procedures and roles & responsibilities. Vendor capabilities and commitment, plays important role in the new posture deployment. Inter-operability issues amongst various stacks or providers may act as barrier to adoption and weighs heavily on minds of corporates, while taking decision. Service providers should work towards developing a seamless eco-system across different SDN networks addressing questions around integration challenges.

SDN has no doubt, opened a complete new frontier enabling business to deploy complex network backbones in quick, agile and cost effective manner. With proper assessment, planning and deployment guidelines, this can potentially be a game changer and open new avenues for companies to increase their reach to end consumer and provide high performance and consistent services.