There’s a great deal of hype surrounding software defined networking (SDN) these days. But sifting through the growing abundance of material alluding to the many benefits SDN it is difficult to get a sense of exactly how this technology will impact datacenter operators, cloud service providers, and of course, customers of cloud services.
To get a better understanding of SDN technology and its impact, Business Cloud News enlisted Simon Pamplin, Director, Systems Engineering, West EMEA at Brocade, who helped answer a few questions on SDN, its impact on the industry and the datacenter, and how the technology improves cloud services.
How and what kind of benefits does SDN deliver to end users of cloud computing services?
End users of cloud solutions should find Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with their providers become more aligned to business level requirements in terms of levels of access and connectivity. Costs may also become lower in the longer term, as Software Defined Networking (SDN) provides a framework that radically improves the time to deploy services across a provider’s environment. Real-time delivery and response has been one of the challenges for cloud services providers, and SDN will help them address this.
How will SDN impact hardware-based networking equipment providers?
It depends which area of networking you are looking at. SDN will not replace the physical network and if the network can’t deliver low latency and high reliability then, as with other forms of virtualisation, SDN cannot be deployed and utilised to full effect. SDN provides a different way of organising and utilising the network, so while some older and legacy hardware solutions will become redundant, the need for innovative networking hardware that can support SDN and other such solutions will increase. This does rely on interoperability and will put further strain on vendor ‘lock-in’ strategies.
How does SDN impact the cost of operating a datacentre?
You can split out the benefits into two key areas:
- Automation — SDN will streamline operations, so that day to day management and the addition of new hardware, applications and services can all be conducted quicker and more efficiently. Gartner estimated (Key Metrics 2013) that 65 percent of IT spend goes on “keeping the lights on”. SDN can help significantly reduce that level so that spend can be invested in business growth.
- Efficiency of assets — SDN like other forms of virtualisation also enables data centres to be better utilised. Server utilisation typically sits at around 30 percent; SDN can improve data centre utilisation through software-based management, making much better use of assets across the data centre.
Are there any new technologies on the horizon that you see to be as important as SDN in terms of delivering benefits to cloud service providers and cloud users?
While the focus has been on SDN as the ‘hot’ new innovation, Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) is another innovation that should be on cloud providers’ radar. NFV sees certain network devices that provide a specific function – such as firewalls and load balancers – move from the physical to the virtual environment, as applications that can be deployed as required (such as virtual routers, software deployed on low-cost servers). NFV will be a key component in driving cost efficiencies across the network.