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Software-defined Networking

Software-defined Networking

SD-WAN: Hype or a must for your company?

According to Gartner, more than half the world’s companies will have modernised their IT infrastructures by 2020. The focus of this modernisation will be on software-based systems such as SD-WAN, which promise not only greater efficiency but also pave the way towards automation. This article explains in five steps how managers and digitisation officers are strategically driving forward the modernisation of their own infrastructures.

Text: Romana Bleisch and Martina Longo, Images: Adobe Stock, First published on 6 june 2019, updated

Whereas the cloud is typically used as a virtual data storage or data centre solution, companies are increasingly relying on virtual solutions for networking. The most well-known example of this is what are known as software-based systems. These software-defined networks (SDNs) significantly increase efficiency and support automation.

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SDN - The network at the push of a button

Careful planning is essential in order to capitalise on the benefits of SDNs. Issues relating to security, compatibility with other applications, transparency and project implementation are central to this switch. What's more, these issues are mostly a matter for management rather than technicians. And careful planning is required in collaboration with security, data-protection and digitisation officers.

 

But fear not: plans like this already exist. And you can easily adapt them to your business. You can do this either on the basis of the following five steps or by contacting one of our advisors directly.

Five steps to a modern infrastructure

Let us assume that your business wants to modernise its IT. One part of this is the infrastructure. To ensure that it remains powerful and secure throughout the next decade, you can use what is known as SD-WAN on the basis of the Swisscom Enterprise Connect solution. Here’s how you can modernise your IT in five steps:

1. Set your goal:

Define your application scenario and determine what specific challenge you want to overcome with the aid of an SDN. Is it about automating processes, about security or agility? Focus on just one area because you needn’t turn your entire network on its head in one go. For smooth implementation and optimal results, we recommend expanding your network in stages.

2. Get the status quo from your IT:

What hardware and software do you currently use? Check whether all the components that make up your infrastructure are compatible with the relevant SDN solution. This information can be supplied by your IT department or service provider. Use uniform, compatible hardware and software so that SDN can be implemented without a hitch.

 

You should also know relevant key performance indicators like response times and bandwidth use. These KPIs are central to ensuring optimal implementation because SDN can be employed for wide-ranging applications with very different requirements. Successful implementation relies on network and application managers knowing the precise demands of each application.

3. Set up a project team:

Switching to SDN affects different areas of a business. The necessary know-how must therefore be equally broad-based. Set up a project team that consists of both networking experts and people with interdepartmental skills. Successful implementation requires an interdisciplinary team with a wide range of knowledge and skills. Check whether the necessary knowledge is available internally. If not, call on external experts to fill the gaps. Holistic support from specialists can be a useful option. With regard to network security, for example, you need experts to define and write the security guidelines, an engineering team to build the network and IT specialists to manage the final network.

4. Set up a PoC:

Now it's time to turn your idea into reality. To ensure success, you should start with an initial proof of concept (PoC). In general, you can proceed with this just as you would with any PoC (defining the goals, planning, budgeting and execution, etc.). But bear in mind that connecting a location to an SD-WAN generally isn't very complicated because it can be undertaken in a hybrid manner and independently of classic structures. Therefore, don’t spend too much time on the PoC.

5. Analyse your achievements:

Having quickly completed implementation, you should immediately analyse your new solution. Determine the time for the network analysis, collect your data and then check your network at regular intervals after implementation. Has the new method solved your current problem? Would it make sense to introduce SDN in other network areas too? Do you have the (HR and technical) infrastructure to maintain software-based networks throughout your business?

Your next step

Software-defined networking opens up new avenues for automating and virtualising processes. Now that you know how it works in theory, it’s time to find out more about the topic. We recommend reading our in-depth white paper “With SD-WANs into the Hybrid Cloud”.


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