SDN Provides Enterprises in Saudi with Networks for Innovation

By shariff mohammed | Dec 10, 2015;
SDN is still at an early stage in Saudi Arabia. The growth in the SDN market will be driven by companies working towards solving existing problems with networks – security, robustness and manageability and by innovating new revenue generating services on network infrastructures. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a highly flexible, cloud-optimized network solution that is salable within the cloud. In our view, this “new” network will be powered by fabric-based architectures, which provide the any-to-any connectivity critical to realizing the full benefits of SDN. These include network visualization, programmatic control of the infrastructure, automation and dynamic configuration, on-demand service insertion and pay-per-use, all through standards-based software orchestration tools. Cloud service deployment will be faster, data center management will be simpler and network operation will be easier.

Yarob Sakhnini, regional director, MEMA at Brocade says many network operators expect the near-term benefits of SDN to be operational in nature: greater management efficiency, fewer interoperability challenges, possible OpEx reduction. However, the original promise of SDN—faster, custom innovation through programmability—provides new opportunities for rapid service innovation and monetization for organizations with the resources and processes in place to develop and deploy them. Not surprisingly, SDN has seen early adoption in service providers and large enterprises with early-adopter IT cultures and active cloud deployments. On the other hand, smaller organizations with very finite infrastructure resources and staff are using SDN to manage traffic spikes and large flows in more efficient ways.

Many organizations in the country think of SDN as being solely for large-scale data centers or that it is just is not ready for prime time. The fact of the matter is that SDN is suitable for all levels of data centers, making configuration, management and monitoring a much simpler task, thus requiring less IT manpower. This is an even more critical concern in smaller organizations without the IT infrastructure of a huge business. SDN is more than just hype or beta technology at this point, It is well established in production environments and is being shipped regularly by major networking vendors.

 

The nature of the network an organization has in place often dictates the speed and manner in which they can adopt SDN. Simple, small-scale networks often seen in SMEs can more easily implement SDN across the network because of their size and a lack of complexity. They often tend to be heterogeneous, meaning they are not tied to a particular vendor. In these heterogeneous networks there is lots more flexibility and choice for IT managers to mix and match technologies that suit their current and future requirements. SMEs, through their use of SDN strategies, have created flexible, intelligent and efficient networks that act as the proof points for the technology’s deployment at enterprise level. For enterprise networks, particularly those with multiple data centers and offices spanning more than one country, it is less common for the network to be heterogeneous and therefore less likely that SDN can be quickly and easily implemented.

While it’s less simple to deploy SDN across an enterprise network where there are existing agreements with a homogeneous vendor, it’s still possible to use SDN strategically in targeted areas in the network. For IT departments in large or enterprise environments looking to implement networking strategies that include SDN and NFV, there are several roads businesses can take that don’t require a complete infrastructure overhaul. Often, IT departments start by deploying SDN in specialized places in the network, particularly when they have legacy equipment that isn’t heterogeneous and is tied to a specific provider. For enterprises, we imagine that within a year it will be easier to access the kind of ‘shrink-wrapped’ SDN solutions they will need to deploy it strategically across the business, however in the short term we’re seeing these small-scale, specialist deployments, often controlled within the hyper visor, which afford network reliability and efficiency where it’s really needed.


Making the move to SDN

SDN introduces new concepts that we did not have at our disposal a few years ago. So building and designing network platforms with SDN using the same concepts and architectures of yesteryears defies the benefits of SDN. Organizations need to step outside the traditional way of designing network platforms to unlock the true power of SDN.

When selecting an SDN solution, decision makers need to be aware of the risks that integrated proprietary stacks introduce. Considering open components that are developed by cooperating members and/or standards bodies has many advantages. These advantages manifest themselves most prominently in the freedom of integrating a best of breed solution and not relying on building a very complex platform from a single vendor that may or may not have all the best components.

While organizations could replace their entire networking infrastructure with an SDN-enabled environment overnight, that certainly isn’t a requirement for a successful SDN deployment. There are any numbers of ways to migrate from a traditional networking infrastructure to SDN. SDN easily coexists with existing networking technologies, and stepped process implementation can ease anxiety. A key consideration is the interoperability of the SDN components with the existing networking hardware components.

Today SDN is an evolving technology and considerable care should be taken not only when buying SDN components, but also when buying hardware components. These hardware components that organizations are deploying today should have a very clear support and future proofing when enterprises need to deploy SDN.

SDN will be replacing some of the functionalities that were built into networking hardware so network platform designers need to take into consideration the performance and functionalities of some of these SDN solutions, to at least meet or exceed the performance of many proprietary hardware based solutions. Some of these functionalities touch the security aspects. Virtualizing your network infrastructure does not mean dropping your guard against the rising tide of application threats, data leakages, and security breaches. So while evaluating SDN solutions, the level of security that the SDN solution brings to the table is important.

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