While the cloud is the virtual solution for storage and data centres, more and more companies are also turning to software-based systems for their networks. Software-defined networking (SDN) increases efficiency and supports automation. To make the transition successful, however, the following four aspects must be considered.
Text: Romana Bleisch and Martina Longo, Images: Adobe Stock, 6 june 2019
US market research company Gartner predicts that, by 2020, more than half of WAN infrastructure will use software-based systems. Companies need to become increasingly fast, flexible and agile; software-defined networking helps them achieve this. SDN goes hand in hand with digitisation, which is why it is gaining importance worldwide.
Wide Area Networks (WANs) are a typical area of application for SDN. Although they are very fast and reliable, WANs offer little scope when it comes to flexibility. If a WAN is switched to a software-based system, it is known as an SD-WAN. Hardware and software are separated, with simple, agile configuration via a dashboard. Whether in the cloud or a data centre, network features can be centrally controlled – site networking at the touch of a button.
To enjoy the benefits of SDN, careful planning is vital. Important factors to consider when switching include security, compatibility with other applications, transparency and project implementation. A precise evaluation of your current situation is therefore the key to success.
The first step is to define your application and decide what you are hoping to achieve with SDN. Do you want to automate processes or increase security or agility? You should focus on one area, since there is no need to turn the entire network upside-down all at once. For seamless implementation with optimal results, we recommend expanding your network step by step. Hybrid network solutions in which only some parts are switched to software-based systems can be a suitable place to start.
It is also worth looking around you. How is SDN being used in your industry? Which applications are being switched to a software-based network in your sector? Look out for best cases, such as Loterie Romande’s successful switch to an SDN-based network. These can offer important insights for your own project planning.
What do hardware and software look like nowadays? Make sure all components of your infrastructure are compatible with SD-WAN. When it comes to hardware and software, use standardised, coordinated products so SDN can be implemented without any hitches.
Relevant figures such as response times or bandwidth use should also be known. Such information is essential for optimal implementation because SDN can be provided for a variety of applications with hugely diverse requirements. Network and application managers need to know exactly what the application requires in order to ensure a successful transition.
Get experts on board early on so they can help with the analysis stage.
The transition to SDN affects various parts of a company, so a sufficient breadth of know-how is required. Assemble a project team that includes network experts as well as people with other areas of expertise. A successful transition requires an interdisciplinary team with a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills. Find out if you have the necessary knowledge in-house, and fill in any gaps with external experts. Comprehensive expert support can be an option. In the network security field, for example, you need specialists to define and write security policies, an engineering team to build the network and IT specialists to then manage it.
In an SDN-based system, organisational responsibilities for networks, servers and applications are not always clear. Collaboration between IT managers from these different areas must therefore be closely coordinated.
Set a date to analyse the network, gather your data and check your network regularly after implementation. Has the new method solved your current problem? Is it sensible to introduce SDN in other parts of the network? Do you have the infrastructure (both personnel and technical) to maintain software-based networks throughout the company?
Software-defined networking opens new opportunities for process automation and virtualisation. Why not take these opportunities and see how they add value to your data-driven business?
A unique complete package based on software-defined networking for the optimum interaction of your ICT. Use all the advantages of digitalisation, and start by making your network more intelligent, faster, and more agile.
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