I’ve been doing some work with a pal recently on Software Defined Networking and how that concept is “colliding” rather too rapidly into his technical product set.
It’s been a fascinating opportunity to review a product platform and how it needs to morph to fit the needs of customers as they anticipate a future filled with “software defined everything.”
As he’s selling to the big telcos, it’s quite easy to couch his business value in terms of a technical sell - and from there derive the RoI and IRR messages that marketing and finance need to hear in order to get on the bandwagon.
And as most telcos already have projects going on in SDN and NFV, it’s also relatively easy to jump on someone else’s bandwagon, so long as the wheels aren’t spinning too fast already.
So what’s next for SDN, then?
Well it seems that corporate users based in branch offices are finding that connecting from home to applications that are hosted in the cloud gives them better performance characteristics than when logging into their traditional data centre-based apps over a corporate WAN from the branch office.
Not surprisingly, they’re starting to complain about this. Would you expect a worse performance from your office branch network than from a home broadband connection?
Unfortunately for branch networks, latency can be significant. And latency only increases when you add security tunnels into the TLA soup – so in many instances you find that WAN crypto is actually not optimised for secure comms, yet it also hobbles the connection speeds. Try running that video conf-call app across the branch WAN and see how well that plays with the big data requests that your peers are hacking on in the office next door.
Not forgetting that when a branch WAN connection goes down, it leaves a whole group of people out of the loop.
The other main distinction between the corporate WAN and the home internet connection is of course the fact that the WAN has a lot less access to public information. So seeing what’s happening in the big wide world is sometimes hobbled by internet gateways at the data centre “interfering” with what the user can see and do.
No wonder users would prefer to work from home – it’s not just because the quality of the coffee is better.
SDN is a solution for enterprise branch networks as well as for what happens at head office. Scrapping WAN protocols and replacing with SDN means you can use the internet as your vehicle of choice, adjust traffic prioritisation and augment bandwidth as needed to support the needs of the business, all the while reducing your WAN costs by a significant fraction.
And as the IT team can now see the overall load across all the branches much more effectively, they can start to consider where data and apps need to be positioned to get the best response times.
And hurrah! Suddenly the data centre has a good business case to become more cloud oriented.
It looks like implementing SDN for WANs fixes short term access problems while at the same time becoming the tool to help IT analyse in detail its plans for cloud services.
And anything that helps cloud services along is going to be loved by both consumers and business users (who are, after all, consumers also…).
For ideas on how to help your clients justify their move to the cloud, contact us here.