ManageEngine Thoughts : Software Defined Networking #3

SDN is one compelling area where tons of discussions happening everyday about the technology and its claims on business value propositions. Legacy internet working systems have huge CapEx and relatively lesser OpEx but not agile in nature. As we discussed earlier, today our networking devices are built using custom silicon and proprietary software images that makes them expensive and complex in nature. Such complex systems create a hostile situation to users in terms of adapting newer technologies to evolve and optimize internet working services to address the challenging business requirements.

SDN – CapEx & OpEx

       Without a doubt SDN is a clean slate solution that can make networks flexible and dynamic with a choice of inexpensive hardware to power the physical layer. So here the CapEx gain is pretty straightforward. Evidently most of the hyper-scale operators like Google, Facebook, Amazon etc are using purpose built commodity hardware boxes to reduce the CapEx. So it is obvious that Enterprises can enjoy similar CapEx gains by moving to SDN model.

Operational expenses are run time costs to configure, manage and troubleshoot networking infrastructure inclusive of utilities and human resources required to carry out the entire operation.

SDN eases the network operation by reducing the dependency on hardware functions and proprietary protocols. Further it claims, by moving to specialized softwares that can perform the control plane functions and exposes APIs to upper layer functions reduces the run time costs of networking operations.

My Opinion

       It is very clear that CapEx costs will go down by selecting commodity networking gears instead of complex custom silicon black boxes.

The potential savings make SDN products attractive. A single port on a high-volume network switch from Cisco or rival Juniper Networks Inc. (JNPR) might cost $250 or more, a price that reflects the companies’ unique hardware as well as added software and services. If large companies buy their own generic switches and seek network management software elsewhere, the price drops to about $45 a port, Gartner Analyst, Mr. Skorupa said.

However it may not be true in the OpEx case. It is very unpredictable if we look at the disadvantages of moving to software based control and methods require to build a relatively solid and high performance SDN Eco-system. It is just too early to predict the OpEx savings on a SDN network without knowing the operational difficulties and right products in place on a production scale network. Considering the complexity of the distributed software applications, SDN networks may not be cheaper in the long run.

Network Management Space

Along with the evolution of networking technologies, network management space will also evolve into a more simpler yet powerful and flexible in nature. Vendors started supporting more REST-ful network management APIs in their gears, makes network management solution providers to deliver  converged infrastructure management solutions faster with improved multi-tier visibility in one single dashboard view.

 On this aspect, SDN vendors should follow a common network management practice for greater interoperability and management plane functions that makes network management solutions agile.

Enterprise IT leaders should watch this space closely for how the whole model addresses enterprise networking challenges and its business value propositions. Also please remember in mind that its not just CapEx and OpEx savings rather your network should be dynamic, flexible and agilely materialize your business requirements into operational existence.

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