Choosing paths to SDN

It is in the industry's interest to make the SDN transition as fruitful and painless for customers as possible and as we have seen with servers, the end product of virtualization and software-definition has been greater standardisation.

TRP: What should organisations consider when developing an SDN strategy?

DV: The ideal SDN strategy should offer a simple yet evolutionary path from existing legacy networking technologies to SDN.

This means that the approach should offer flexibility to choose SDN technologies and phase them in gradually, creating a hybrid environment whilst eliminating the expensive rip and replace upgrades and complex integration issues which have previously been standard in the highly proprietary networking world.

For those organisations transitioning, it is also essential that SDN can be activated one port at a time in a controlled manner to allow for monitoring. You should start out by testing best-in-class SDN applications on trusted platforms to understand what is possible with the technology, and how you can progress with it without increasing infrastructure costs.

Products should offer interoperability by being based on open standards with vendors having ongoing participation in SDN standards-driving groups like the ONF and Object Management Group (OMG) and close partnerships with NVO vendors like Microsoft and VMware.

Hybrid strategies offer the advantage of being able to introduce different SDN solutions to best meet application and network needs, allowing your network to remain as agile as possible.

Finally it is important to recognise your end goals and needs. SDN is one step in a journey to a software-defined data centre, so it is important that you have a strategy that takes a more holistic view of your IT infrastructure.

Likewise it is also important not to lose sight of your priorities in a rush to adopt SDN. Creating a central control plane may grab the attention but you should always keep in mind your key processes, the management of your workloads and determining which workloads run best on which networking devices.

With a re-evaluation and optimization of your workloads through SDN adoption, you can shift your value chain significantly to maximize the value and potential of your data centre. These should be your ultimate priority and you should factor this into your evaluation of SDN vendors when looking to transition.