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A look at the SDN trend in Asia: interview

Nurdianah Md Nur | Sept. 30, 2013
SDN is still in the nascent stage, especially in the AP region. Michel Emelianoff shares the reasons for this, and tips for organisations looking to adopt SDN.

Are there any particular industries which have rapidly adopted SDN so far?
I see the large carriers, service providers and WebScale companies rapidly adopting SDN as they have the resources to integrate the current technologies to provide the benefits of greater automation and business agility. I believe today's SDN technologies require significant internal resources to deliver the full range of benefits that SDN espouses.

Is SDN similar to network virtualisation?
SDN and network virtualisation are complementary technologies which support the greater goal of end-to-end programmability and application fluency. Even though the origin for SDN and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) is different, they address the same set of problems faced by organisations in two different manners.

SDN is typically viewed as technology around the centralisation of control plane, with distributed data plane achieved through the implementation of OpenFlow standards. It is also viewed as technology around the programmability of the end-to-end infrastructure with interface to the applications. SDN thus offers programmability of the data plane with centralised visibility.

NFV's goal is not about focusing and standardising on specific implementation methods or protocols like SDN does. Instead, NFV's goal is the virtualisation of network services — including security, Application Delivery Controllers (ADC's), etc. —  along with the network components so that from the end-to-end perspective, all these services can be orchestrated as a single workflow.

A combination of both SDN and NFV working together is the best possible solution for any enterprise to transition the infrastructure towards Application Fluency focused on end-user experience.

While cloud and server virtualisation technologies offer their own set of benefits, they may stress out the network. What are the network challenges that organisations should expect due to virtualisation?
Manual processes need to adjust networks towards additions, movements and changes of virtual machine. This might result in lack of business agility. Traditional hierarchical network design also introduces significant latency and bottlenecks with new virtualised applications. In addition, organisations should ensure sufficient resource coordination between applications and the network so as to understand the bottlenecks.

How should organisations prevent or overcome these network challenges?
SDN is in the early adoption phase of the technology adoption curve. This is primarily driven by the very large enterprises, service providers and/or WebScale companies. SDN has its merits but could be intrusive if not understood and planned correctly. Organisations should look into what their specific business challenge is and seek and identify those challenges. Here are some principles that organisations should follow:

  1. Acquire the knowledge about SDN and the various approaches prevailing in the industry. Ensure that the vendor's products being delivered today are future proof to support the evolution of technology as SDN evolves.
  2. Ensure that the organisation is ready to accept the change. This may require a closer cooperation among various groups or organisational or process changes to become successful.
  3. Understand the various use cases available and their impact to their own organisation. Not every solution will be valid to every organisation. They should do this by:
  • Identifying an area, solution or a workflow that is a problem area and which could reap benefits to their organisation from new data centre technology.
  • Evaluating the solutions available and ensuring they understand the resource requirements that may be needed for implementation. For example, if the key bottleneck in the data centre is around virtual machine mobility, then automation/orchestrations exist today off-the-shelf with little need to disrupt the entire data centre infrastructure.


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