SDN’s new dawn is coming
In 2015, software-defined networking will move from being a niche technology to one that creates real business value
It can be argued that software-defined networking (SDN) is one of the biggest changes the networking industry has undergone since the advent of the internet. This topic has been gathering pace in the industry over the last few years, but to date adopters in the Middle East are few and far between. The majority of regional enterprises are not quite ready to invest in this technology, which requires commitment, skill and understanding.
However, we should not be despondent about the slow approach to take up in the region. I believe 2015 will mark SDN’s move from a niche category to one that delivers real business value. Indeed, SDN is estimated to grow from $5.1 million in 2013 to $118 million by 2019, reaching new levels of deployment as organisations take the steps required to embrace the technology. This will create agility across cloud and data centre environments, as well as operators and large enterprise customers able to adopt SDN on a network-wide basis including broadband, mobile and fixed networks.
The ongoing emergence of SDN is a potentially disruptive trend, but one that opens up significant opportunities. Education and understanding about the technology will be critical to further establishing SDN-based networks in the Middle East.
Back to basics
SDN is a game changer. The technology allows separation between the data plane and the control plane within the network. One advantage of this includes the automation and orchestration of the network commands to remove the repetitive nature of deploying applications in the data centre. As businesses become more dependent than ever on their data centres to deliver flexible and streamlined solutions, data centre networks are struggling to keep pace because of complex architectures. SDN enables the smart deployment and delivery of applications within data centres, bolstering the agility and efficiency required to transform business solutions for today’s virtualised, private, public as well as hybrid cloud scenarios. Elsewhere, SDN can also make available the analytics trapped inside the network to reduce troubleshooting times from days or weeks to minutes and seconds.
For operators and enterprises, SDN can be utilised specifically on the service-edge spectrum, where most services can be visualised and automatically chained to steer user traffic. This leads to the faster execution of features to enhance the user experience on one hand, and better profitability for the network operator on the other hand.
As cloud adoption continues, CIOs are looking for solutions that will accommodate greater levels of business agility where services can quickly respond to the needs of the customer. IT leaders will be looking at the implications of SDN adoption and if it’s worth any perceived risk. Trailblazing CIOs in the region will no doubt be monitoring uptake in more advanced markets to help make this decision.
Global hot spots
Looking beyond the Middle East, numerous companies have experimented with full automation and orchestration in test environments. Many more have deployments of a significant size, including Nike, and mobile operator AT&T.
With the endorsement of these early adopters, it is likely that many other forward-looking businesses will follow suit. However, instead of a ‘rip and replace’ approach, organisations will look for ways to incorporate networking automation into their current infrastructure.
We will see some very creative uses of SDN come to the fore in 2015. Video gaming companies will rely on automated networks to spin up cloud instances and support tremendous volumes of user traffic driven by the rise of online gaming with next-generation consoles. Big data-driven companies, such as oil and gas firms as well as banks, will find that SDN will become a critical component of their data centre infrastructures. These energy and financial services industries, often comprised of remote branch offices, will also turn to automation for increased security, maximised efficiency and reduced cost burdens.