Why SDN is here to stay


The average enterprise data centre is tasked with handling more mission-critical workloads than ever before, and companies struggling to determine the best ways to provision needed resources should considering adopting software-defined networking.


While SDN is still an amorphous concept to many, an InformationWeek report on the topic from June explained that it applies the same underlying principles which define virtualization and applies them to networking. Instead of relying on static nodes to only send specific types of data to one endpoint, SDN adds a layer of software that allows data centre staff to quickly alter these configurations as needed.


For example, say an enterprise runs its videoconferencing solution and payroll software on the same server. In the past, the organization would have likely used two different switches since each workload deals with different types of data. With SDN in place, that same business can more effectively utilize the jointly provisioned server, since just one switch that is overseen by a software solution can alter settings accordingly to allow both to run efficiently.


“Using this decoupling of data and control planes, it now becomes possible to direct traffic from one place to another, or with a variety of different policies and functions, based on instructions from higher automation tools, or even applications,” Ronnie Scott, Cisco’s data centre technical solutions architect for Western Canada, wrote in a recent Cisco Canada blog post. “This then provides the ability to manage traffic far more granularly than by using the topology defined by the networking protocols alone.”


How to account for this shift
While SDN holds great potential, it is still a very new technology that has yet to dramatically alter data centre operations. Of the 250 IT professionals polled about SDN in July 2012, only 9 percent indicated that they are currently using it or testing it out, according to the InformationWeek report. In comparison, 30 percent said they had no plans to look further into SDN.


One reason why many data centre professionals remain hesitant to adopt SDN is because it so dramatically alters business as usual. For IT departments accustomed to having hardware be the central component of any technology initiative, directing more resourcing and infrastructure away from physical equipment presents too many perceived unknown variables, the report noted. Seasoned staff members know how to oversee and maintain hardware-centric environments, but networks run almost entirely by software and automation solutions is simply too scary.


Still, as Scott and many others have stressed, SDN likely represents the future of IT provisioning whether or not today’s IT professionals are prepared for such a shift. Simply put, SDN offers enterprises so much more than is available in a traditional data centre environment, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes the dominant framework in the industry.


In order to promote this shift to SDN, enterprises should consider using a managed IT services provider like FlexITy. As a leading Canadian IT consulting services firm, FlexITy can help to make sure that the data centre infrastructure utilized is optimized with trends such as SDN in mind. This way, C-level leaders can rest assured that their IT resources are best able to meet rising end-user demands now and well into the future.