Software Defined Networking: Why IT Executive can't Underestimate the Importance of their Digital Plumbing

Rick Drescher, MD, Technical Services, Savills Studley

Rick Drescher, MD, Technical Services, Savills Studley

The sheer number of infrastructure, platform and software as a service options available to companies has never been greater, and the velocity of new services becoming available shows no signs of slowing down. While each company must evaluate providers, services, and cost structures that best meet their business, technical and operational priorities, one thing remains the same—the network enabling these services, from completely outsourced solutions, to hybrid offerings, must be flexible, reliable, and cost effective—enter Software Defined Networking.

The days of monolithic network transport to simply get data from a fixed-point A to a fixed-point B are long gone. To stay competitive, companies need the ability to connect new services to their networks quickly and roll out these services to its user and/or customer base as rapidly as possible. AWS, Azure and GCP have reduced the provisioning times of infrastructure from weeks to minutes. This has allowed organizations to experiment with ways to meaningfully increase revenue or improve customer experience in ways that were not possible 10 years ago. The most successful deployments however, particularly those that are at scale, require a properly implemented network strategy that includes SDN and orchestration at its core to enable the flexibility to turn-up and deliver new services as quickly as sales, marketing and engineering talent can think them up. Waiting 30-45 business days for a new circuit is no longer an option.

As more companies either re-write legacy applications or develop “the next big thing” on XaaS platforms to take advantage of new features that seem to be rolled out daily, reliable and rapid access to these systems becomes more and more important—in fact, it has become table stakes. If the finance department can’t access the new cloud-based accounting system, or customers can’t place their order on a company’s new e-commerce site due to network connectivity issues, otherwise successful projects are discounted by the C-Suite, or worse, a company’s customers. While building redundancy and self-healing into networks used to be a very complex, and often expensive endeavor, that is no longer the case. Vendors, including hardware manufacturers, cloud and network services providers, and network management platforms now offer integration with each other to identify issues within a network, and autonomously adjust which networks and routes are used to increase network performance and remediate issues before they end up as front-page news on Google.

All of the advantages that software defined infrastructure offers, whether it be compute, storage, security or network services, means nothing if it doesn’t provide services at a cost point that is attractive and a better alternative to the traditional capex model companies have used for the acquisition of IT hardware and software—assuming that no longer works for them. In the past, the ability to create flexible network solutions involved the integration of complex API’s, potentially reduced functionality—to increase cross-vendor compatibility, and senior level staff resources to design, implement and manage these networks. Complete, turn-key solutions are now available from single vendors to handle everything from circuit and logical network design, very robust network visibility and management capabilities, as well as full management of the solution if that is desired.

From an overly simplistic perspective, networks are the digital plumbing that enablee-mails to flow, sales teams to update their Salesforce forecasts, and perhaps most importantly to the bottom line—services and goods to be consumed faster and easier than ever, or in other words, revenue generation. Networks enable financial transactions, directly impact customer satisfaction (think of the frustration of the spinning icon when Netflix is loading), as well as dozens of other aspects that are critical to the operation of a modern business. Therefore, it is no surprise that selecting and purchasing network services has become such a focal point of importance for companies of all sizes, and across all industry verticals. More than ever before, companies should be evaluating the providers, services and infrastructure available at all of their locations—whether that bean office, the data center or the cloud.

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