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Defining The Data Centre

The rise of the software-defined network.

For many, 2017 was the year of software-defined networking (SDN). It was the year when Gartner made its predictions about the technology’s future success, when well-known names revealed their SDN portfolios, and when organisations began to pay real attention to what this could do to bottom line and business. Gartner described it as the ‘shiny new object’ on the technology toy shelf and put forward the bold idea that by 2020, 30% of enterprises would have deployed the technology compared with the 1% of today. In any world, that’s an impressive percentage rise and should have most businesses sitting up and paying attention.

However, like any new toy, the technology has its detractors and some believe that SDN is just a unicorn. Pretty to imagine, amazing to get right, but the reality is mired in costs, closed services and standards, locked-in solutions, and narrow viewpoints. If the networking element isn’t done properly, then the rest of the puzzle isn’t going to fall into seamless place. From server to storage, virtualisation has helped to transform mayhem and introduce order. The potential for it to do the same to the network is there, but only if the challenges are recognised and solutions aren’t selected because they’re as shiny as the hype.

Many of the revelations around technology in this space have been nothing short of miraculous. An unending panacea of SDN delights has flown with glee into the market, but not all solutions have been created equal. First, establish if the business needs SDN, then consideroptions based on merit and reviews, not glamour and good marketing. Many organisations have failed to establish SDN that works for the business, often because they don’t actually need it. In one interview with a leading technology publication, an engineer despaired of management sending down the request to ‘do SDN’ without any real understanding as to what it means and why it is of value.

Another challenge is that many SDN solutions have remained stalwartly closed, locking in users and systems and preventing effective integration and development. That said, there is a trend towards open source SDN initiatives that focus on collaboration and interoperability. Driven by groups like the Open Networking Foundation, this shift has inspired larger organisations to pay attention to open source platforms with AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy well into its first year. In addition, the move towards a universal SDN protocol will make a huge difference in adoption of the technology. What the standard will be and who will lead the way remains to be seen.

Research and Markets’ new report – Global Software Defined Networking Market Analysis & Trends – Industry Forecast to 2025 – had as positive an outlook of the market as Gartner with a predicted CAGR of approximately 48.1% by 2025. IDC published their own study that added its own percentage points to the SDN market – theirs is 53.9% CAGR from 2014 to 2020. Both support the overarching belief that SDN adoption is going to increase significantly from 2017 onwards. It seems that the research is convinced, a survey undertaken by Gatepoint Research on behalf of SevOnefound that 40% of organisations have software-defined infrastructures and that SDN represents a major investment by Fortune 1000 companies.

It’s the ubiquity and potential of SDN that keeps its pundits paying attention. SDN takes the network so far beyond the traditional it’s like comparing the horse to modern horsepower. Security, state, convergence, hyperconvergence, application performance and so much more can all take place in the network without adding to infrastructure overhead. It’s a unicorn, but hopefully one that can be tamed, as it offers the enterprise a welcome solution to issues around latency, security, accessibility and budget.

Until next time, thank you for your continued support of First Technology.

Warm Regards

Johan de Villiers Managing Director

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