By Gordon Fairlie, Riverbed Product Manager at Networks Unlimited
In a fast-changing environment with new applications daily and a surge of data to manage, CIOs are looking to software defined networking to give them a competitive advantage, says Networks Unlimited.
In today’s fast-evolving IT environment, the need to manage big data and mobility is putting significant pressure on network managers. Today’s increasingly internet-facing community is creating a massive flow of data, new applications can emerge virtually daily and companies are struggling to manage these changes from a performance and security perspective. Without effective security and application performance management in this changing environment, enterprises are slow to react, make decisions based on outdated data, and even face the risk of losing customers.
There is growing pressure on performance as a competitive edge, particularly in enterprises for whom response time and performance is a deal-breaker. The e-commerce sector, for example, may invest heavily in launching a new product to market, but if the site performance is poor or cross-links don’t work, customers become very intolerant very quickly and move on. The enterprise must also be able to monitor users and react to their movements on the fly – if there is sudden interest in a product, they must be able to stock accordingly and take steps to ensure that performance isn’t degraded by a million users suddenly on the server. The modern network must not just enable agility, tracking and monitoring of data, it must also support the ability to respond accordingly.
In a traditional network environment, the architecture is relatively static and requires manual adjustment of the switches and routers managing the flow of data. In a large enterprise with – for example – 150 servers, significantly increased data flow and new applications emerging several times a week, these manual processes can become a full-time job, and are becoming too onerous and costly for the average enterprise to sustain.
The solution lies in addressing end user experience and transactional monitoring challenges with an intelligent, automated, programmable and dynamic software defined network, which is able to respond in an agile way. A tenfold increase in data is not a problem if you have the right tools to deal with it, and big data challenges are driving interest in SDN both globally and in South Africa, where enterprises are starting to see the need to control and understand data, and create agility and automation with a centrally programmable network. Enterprises are looking to integrated solution suites that deliver end to end network and application monitoring. If you can manage the entire IT infrastructure from end user through to data center with one management window, and you can adjust and change it on the fly – that’s nirvana.
However, there are some stumbling blocks in the way of faster SDN adoption in South Africa. Most of them come down to the misconception that SDN requires a rip and replace approach. But there are several models for introducing SDN that build on existing investments, including open flow, APIs or a virtual network overlay. There may also be concerns that SDN eliminates the need for skilled network engineers and architects. However, while SDN tends to simplify their work, there will remain a need for their specialised skills.
As enterprises increase their understanding of big data and SDN, we will see increased adoption of SDN across South Africa, while those who don’t adopt it will simply become uncompetitive.