When combined, SDN and NFV promise to bring an unprecedented level of digital control to global IT networks.
While software-defined networking (SDN) shuns proprietary hardware for an open, programmable global network infrastructure that can be centrally managed, network functions virtualization (NFV) enables features, such as firewall/proxy and acceleration, to be virtualized and delivered either from the network or from customer premise equipment (CPE), enabling zero touch provisioning when additional functionality is required. Together these technologies make it possible for enterprises to access network capacity on demand via a self-service portal. In addition, routing and security policies can automatically adapt to address real-time congestion, security threats or network outages.
Below are five business benefits enterprises can benefit from thanks to SDN and NFV.
1. Increased business agility
The flexibility of SDN makes it far easier and faster to roll out new innovative services, such as real-time HD video conferencing and cloud applications, while still delivering a consistently high-quality end user experience. Lead times of months to deliver fixed function equipment is reduced to minutes. It's simply a matter of spinning up a new virtualized service on a network pop or general purpose CPE. Developers can isolate and run new application workloads without risk as virtual tenants in a live network, thereby speeding up problem solving and deployment times. This significantly improves business agility.
2. Improved network visibility, performance and management control
SDN brings the benefits of network-wide visibility, analytics and control through a simple dashboard. A centralized controller determines the best route for each application traffic flow. It assesses real-time congestion levels, link health, priority of workload to the business and the quality of service required. The ability to easily route traffic via multiple paths through a network increases redundancy. This is important as the cost of IT downtime ranges from $1 million a year for a midsize company to $60 million per year for large enterprises, according to a
report from IHS.
Intelligence at the core and edge of the network can be used to execute some tasks that are prone to latency faster, for example traffic acceleration. This helps to ensure cloud applications are responsive and easy to use, helping to increase employee productivity and deliver a great customer experience while minimizing network costs.
3. Enhanced security
Security is one of the key attractions of SDN for 45% of enterprises surveyed by the publishers of eWeek. The centralized SDN controller in the core network has visibility over end-to-end traffic flows and emerging threats. It can push global security policies updates out centrally to every site, while a virtualized switch can filter packets at the network edge and redirect suspicious traffic to higher layer security controls. Role-based access to data, applications over a diversity of transport links with varying levels of security is also easier using an end-to-end SDN controller.
This multi-layered approach to network security, along with granular insights into traffic and the ability to react in real time simply can't be matched by fixed hard-wired networks with rigid security policies.
4. Eliminated vendor lock-in
Open platforms are key in eliminating vendor lock-in and driving growth in SDN. According to Transparency Market Research, the SDN market is set to surge to US$3.52 billion by 2018. The OpenDaylight platform, which is leading the transformation to open SDN, now accounts for 95% of the entire SDN market. This enables enterprises to use multivendor solutions to benefit healthy price competition and faster innovation. Orange is investing heavily in an open framework that enables customers to pick and choose the "best-in-breed" features for their networks -- such as firewalls, network acceleration, load balancing or traffic visibility.
5. Reduced costs
SDN pools multiple compute, storage and processing functions onto low-cost commodity servers to reduce capital expenditure. At the same time, virtualization enables a lot of manual network configuration and management tasks to be automated, reducing operating costs. This eliminates the need to physically visit switches and branch office sites. According to Gartner, enterprises can see a 90% reduction in time for provisioning network services.
Orange has been running pilots of a digital and automated SDN solution and will be making it commercially available in 2016. The results will be leveraged for the launch of a commercial offering this year.
— John Isch, Practice Director of Network & Voice at Orange Business Services