Making a business case is crucial to speed up the mainstream SDN adoption

By : |October 15, 2014 0

Until one year back, the technology concepts that used to intrigue the decisionmakers most are probably the software defined networking (SDN) and the network function virtualization (NFV). But, despite the promises of these two concepts, the discussion is yet to sink in, and as a result, the uptake has been very slow than what it was expected to be. So when do we see the transformation?

A growing adoption among the enterprises and mid-market customers has been perceived as they rapidly move to the cloud to better suit their business needs. We will see new companies successfully emerge, while some incumbents unsuccessfully struggle to transition. But like any major industry trend, the customer benefit is real and we’ve now reached a tipping point where the technology shift is inevitable, says Sajan Paul, director-Systems Engineering, India & SAARC, Juniper Networks.


CIOL: How is the discussion around the SDN in India taking shape? 

Sajan Paul: SDN was a relatively new term a year ago and the customers, while interested, preferred to adopt the ‘wait and see’ approach. That has changed over time and, while we expect it to take years for a significant amount of service provider and enterprise customers to manage production SDN environments, we are starting to see an increased appetite for deployment.

In India, according to Gartner, server, storage and networking market amount to approximately INR 15,300 crores, out of which at least 5-10 percent are SDN centric decisions. While the current adoption rate for SDN is relatively low and customers are at slightly different starting points in terms of assets they can leverage, we continue to have discussions with customers on areas that SDN will help resolve – app performance, business agility and cost containment/reduction. We have already started to release aspects of our portfolio that allow our customers to make long-term investments today to support their SDN journey when they are ready.

CIOL: What are the factors driving SDN in enterprises?

SP: The wide adoption of the cloud, connected device, mobile computing and big data applications is having profound impacts on IT and network infrastructure. Compared to traditional applications, these applications have much shorter life cycle and can be spun up and down, grow and shrink on demand. Furthermore, these app workloads can move within a data center or across geographically distributed data centers resulting in increased management complexities. The traditional way of implementing networking and services in hardware makes them static, rigid, manual, and unable to rapidly respond to dynamically changing application requirements.

IT investment is driven by agility for application deployment and delivery, and meeting the cost- performance objective. In response to changing enterprise apps characteristics – shorter life cycle, on-demand delivery and elastic scalability, enterprises have started off their IT transformation by virtualizing their own datacenter compute and storage resources and then added orchestration software to make it a “cloud like architecture”. To further achieve private cloud based ITaaS, they further require fully automated network, compute and storage – that is network integration into cloud orchestration, and seamless location-independent connectivity to support workload mobility. In their journey from legacy IT datacenters to the “cloud”, enterprises expect SDN to fast service introduction, network agility and lowered capex and opex.

CIOL: The promises of SDN and NFV are different. Do they work better together?

SP: If IT managers are ready to jump aboard the SDN bandwagon, they might wonder where to begin. The answer is to start with virtualization. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is a key part of a service provider’s broader SDN strategy. While NFV and SDN are often seen as separate technologies, the reality is that they are highly complementary and it is in combination that they deliver the most value. Virtualizing network functions is the first step towards building an agile network and truly leveraging SDN. NFV allows for the deployment of network components as software via virtual machines.

CIOL: Juniper talks about Cloud Builders and High IQ Networks. How does SDN/NFV support those concepts?

SP: SDN has emerged as the foundation for cloud, be it private cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud. SDN and NFV enable network and service virtualization, orchestration and automation for cloud builders to share infrastructure resources, scale them on demand, automate operations, and be more responsive to dynamic business demands, while maximizing resource utilization.

To become a service creation platform that empowers end users and delivers customized experiences, service providers must create an agile, High-IQ infrastructure that’s simple to manage, efficient and programmable. SDN and NFV are the foundation to build High-IQ Networks because they can automate network operations to speed the time to market of new apps and services and reduce cost, scale network performance multi-dimensionally while driving greater efficiency together with high-performance silicon and create revenue-generating customized services rapidly.

CIOL: What are the challenges towards the adoption of SDN/NFV?

SP: While the evidence is mounting that SDN will lower overall network hardware spend, not much information is available on it to support a robust business case for the technology. Unlike server virtualization, where both the technology and business benefits are clear, it is far more difficult to quantify the true cost of the software, hardware and professional services required to transform network functions from physical to virtual while still operating at scale with seamless fidelity and reliability.

The question also remains about exactly who within the IT organization should make the final decision as to which approach is right. In the past, the network group had clear responsibility and authority for all decision-making regarding changes and upgrades to network infrastructure. However, with the emergence of solutions designed to extend server virtualization into the network domain (e.g., VMware) the server group now has a seat at the table, with a compelling story to tell. This creates conflict within the IT organization that may limit the speed at which SDN is adopted.

CIOL: How does Juniper address these issues to drive adoption?

SP: Juniper has already started to release aspects of the SDN portfolio that allow customers to make long-term investments today to support their SDN journey when they are ready. The core SDN principles can be applied to all networking and networking services including security. The technology can be utilized from the datacenter and enterprise to the mobile and wireless networks used by service providers, so the scope is immense.

Juniper’s SDN approach architects the networks to meet the connectivity and service requirements of a wide range of increasingly dynamic applications, and optimally addresses customers’ need for the network to be agile, policy-driven, programmable, scalable and automated. Juniper delivers production-ready SDN solutions covering multiple use cases and spanning multiple network domains including data center, campus, access, edge and core.

To ensure that the SDN products operate smoothly in multi-vendor physical and virtual environments, Juniper has been designing the SDN/NFV solutions using open, proven standards, and is actively participating in standards bodies, such as ETSI to make new standards for NFV. But ultimately, SDN will thrive when product results can justify investment and provide a foundation for a business case.

We are also actively building the channel, integration and technology partnerships to influence all relevant decision makers and influencers in different organizations to drive adoption.

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