A Cure for Network Pains

Managing the Changing IT Landscape: Software-Defined Networks

Some of the greatest leaps forward occur when several trends converge to transform into a

Software-Defined Networks Intel IT Center.png new way to provide IT services. This is the case with software-defined networks (SDN)—one of the most promising innovations in networking—and the growing demand for mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. I had a chance to explore SDN during #IDF13 and I’ve discovered an important relationship between SDN and mobility. This technology now makes it possible to work in new ways, with our choice of devices and the expectation of ubiquitous connectivity.

Network Resources Under Extreme Pressure

Mobility is changing everything. In particular, the huge growth of Internet-connected devices  —smart phones, tablets, Ultrabook™ devices, 2 in 1s, other laptops, and wearable technology—challenges network capacity and resource planning. The rapid adoption of 4G LTE strains the network further. Most data centers handle growing network traffic, as well as anticipated spikes at times of higher use, with an investment in equipment and manual allocation of physical resources, a time-consuming, inefficient process that typically leads to overcapacity and under-utilization. Because this approach lacks the elasticity to adapt automatically and dynamically to changes in traffic levels, data center administrators face increasing investments in and complexity of their network architecture.

This is where SDN can make a difference. SDN separates the network control and decision making from the physical network infrastructure devices. Network functions become programmable, and network management and visibility is centralized. Levels of access and traffic movement can be prioritized and bandwidth protected for mission-critical applications, significantly increasing the utilization of existing infrastructure. The result is significantly faster services, greater network flexibility, simplified manageability, and reduced costs. Check out this video for the basics on SDN platforms.

Enterprise Mobility Demands What SDN Promises

A 2013 Sophos survey reported that an average person in the United States carries three devices, and the Cisco Visual Networking Index predicts that mobile Internet devices will outnumber humans by the end of 2013. With employees expecting to be able to work anywhere, anytime, with any device, there’s an obvious and overwhelming need for data centers to provide access to mobile applications platforms and to handle more and more network traffic.

One logical industry application is healthcare, where the use of mobile devices is becoming an integral part of modern medical practice. An interesting Network World article  describes how one large healthcare organization is working on using SDN to define levels of access for Wi-Fi–enabled devices across the network so that medical devices have prioritized, responsive service and critical applications have consistent bandwidth. The organization plans to use SDN to provision, manage, and respond to issues as they occur across five medical campuses for 10,000 concurrent users and 5,000 guest users every day. Still in the lab phase, the IT department is currently rolling out an initial deployment in one of the smaller hospitals.

SDN is an exciting approach to the problems of overwhelmed networks and ongoing traffic growth. But data centers are still in the early phases of turning the theory of SDN into the reality of large enterprise deployments.

Is your organization investigating SDN? If not, what other ways are you considering for dealing with the rampant growth of network traffic?

#ITCenter #SDN #MobileEnterprise