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Software-defined networking: business hype or game changer?

This network will completely decouple the physical network from its virtual elements, with the scope of the control plane moving beyond an individual router or switch to be fully controlled by software.

From the point of view of applications and operating systems, a virtual network functions in exactly the same way as a physical network–no special configuration "above" the network is necessary.

Virtualization has certainly proven its worth. SDDC represents a kind of "full scale" virtualization that provides benefits in three crucial areas:

Efficiency: In any complex machine, the more parts that are introduced, the greater chance that one will break and take down the entire system. SDDC allows the physical network to be streamlined, so resources can be shared even between applications – including those with differing requirements.

Security: High-profile attacks on businesses seem to be happening on an increasing basis, and as networks become more complicated there are more points for malicious parties to attack. In an SDDC, network control is consolidated and centralized, which provides a greater degree of visibility into network behavior and control over security.

Cost-effectiveness: With budgets constantly shrinking, IT administrators are regularly tasked to accomplish more with fewer resources. Generic "white box" SDN-capable equipment is often much less expensive than traditional gear, reducing capital expenditures as well as ongoing maintenance costs.

Preparing for the Future

For many businesses, a true SDDC will be some distance off. But they should still set their sights on what they hope to achieve in the coming years, in order to make decisions now that will later aid that transition.

Organizations should adopt the right infrastructure elements early, and begin to implement virtualization and SDN as they are able, which will help them progress toward a fully virtualized data center.

The SDDC will be a game-changing shift in IT, and those that have seen it coming – and have prepared themselves – will be able to realize the benefits sooner. Those organizations will gain a competitive advantage over those who are still waiting to make sure the SDDC isn't another 3D television frivolity.