Determining the need for Software Defined Networking

TRP: What has to happen for SDN to become mainstream?

KH: SDN is relatively new, and is improving on a variety of technology fronts. Some are quite mature, while the ones related to the greatest levels of system abstraction are still evolving. However, there is already a real interest from enterprises that are keen to see how deploying SDN in their own private or hybrid cloud environments can deliver greater business agility and to roll out innovative services faster and more efficiently.

With IT departments becoming increasingly service-orientated, the ability to support business units by quickly and easily deploying new services through SDN will become hugely valuable.

One thing that will be vital to the future of SDN is the establishment of open standards. These are crucial since they guarantee that network products will be interoperable regardless of which company manufactured them; something which is a key factor in enabling a more holistic approach to network management.

Fortunately, we are seeing a shift toward open, more flexible, efficient, highly programmable and elastic network infrastructure solutions with key initiatives such as OpenStack and the Open Daylight Project now very well supported.

TRP: How should businesses be preparing for the move to SDN?

KH: Many businesses are already preparing for SDN by deploying Ethernet fabrics. According to research recently carried out by Brocade, 60 percent of organisations believe that fabrics are the future of networks, as by increasing the robustness and flexibility of the network, fabrics give organisations the ideal foundation on which to build SDN functionality at a later date.

The University of Westminster, for example, recently upgraded its network architecture with this in mind. The IT team there knows that it might want to adopt SDN in the future and so wanted to ensure that its infrastructure will allow it to take advantage of SDN at a later date, ensuring it can meet and exceed user demands now and for many years to come.

TRP: You are speaking later this month at the Annual Software Defined Networking Summit in London, can you tell us a bit more about that event?

KH: The Software Defined Networking Summit in London, now in its second year, is one of the world's foremost events for discussing SDN, Openflow and Network Function Virtualisation. It is a fantastic forum for debate and collaboration, with experts and speakers from all around the world, and I'm looking forward to seeing how far things have moved on since the inaugural Summit last year.

It should be a brilliant opportunity for industry thought leaders – and interested newcomers to the subject – to share ideas on how we can educate the industry about SDN, and help businesses take advantage of its huge potential benefits.

TRP: What are the main themes and talking points likely to be this year?

KH: Overall, I expect the main focus of the day to be an acknowledgement that today's networks are facing their biggest technology disruption in the last 20 years. We all know that our networks are struggling to support the significant demands placed on them by big data, video and the proliferation in connected devices.

Business and technology leaders know that they need to ensure that their enterprise architectures can support the evolving needs of today's agile business but they can also no longer tolerate the practice of expensive, CAPEX-heavy upgrades.

I think a lot of the conversations will focus on how businesses can move away from these legacy systems and towards a model that will allow them to expand or evolve capacity and structure based on need. That is undoubtedly the way the industry is going, so it should be a fascinating discussion.