The hot topic in networking this year is almost certainly debates over the promise and potential of Software-Defined Networking, aka SDN or SD-WAN. After decades of dealing with hardware-specific networking standards which require high levels of expertise to properly administer, SD-WAN puts forward the hope of a much easier way of handling business networks.
Simply put, SD-WAN proposals (and there are many flavors at the moment) revolve around moving all the major software functions into shared cloud-based or virtualized spaces, where they're largely abstracted from the hardware. Once such a virtualized space is made, the software doesn't necessarily rely on any specific hardware, especially as better APIs and other standards evolve.
It could be roughly compared to how modern Windows or Linux OSes can run on pretty much any desktop or laptop computer with the same basic functionality, regardless of who made the components.
Here are a few of the biggest reasons generally given for embracing these new trends:
Five Reasons Why Software-Defined Networking Is Starting To Make A Lot of Sense
1 - Centralized Management
For a CIO or IT Administrator, possibly the biggest argument for software-defined networking is how much it can simplify management. In a cloud, mesh, or otherwise virtualized system, it becomes entirely possible to use a single interface to oversee and configure ALL aspects of the network at once. The days of having to configure every piece of hardware individually are starting to look as old-fashioned as manually managing low DOS memory.
2 - Zero-Touch Deployments
Speaking of configuration, why bother configuring at all? This is already standard on major brands experimenting with SD-WAN styles. Once the initial configuration and security settings are created, any hardware later added to the system can simply self-configure based on those shared settings. Adding hardware can be as simple as plugging it in, then scanning a bar code on the side to add its serial number and license to the central software. The network does the rest.
3 - Auto-Configuring Bandwidth Usage
When all of the hardware in a network is "aware" of each other, and linked together by a hypervisor that's overseeing all operations, that creates a network which can be largely self-optimizing. The high-level OS functions can micromanage bandwidth use on-the-fly with far greater acuity than a human operator can. Likewise, if a piece of hardware ever stops functioning, the system can intelligently route around it to minimize the performance impact.
4 - Location-Agnostic Networking
If the OS is in the cloud, everything can be in the cloud. For businesses looking to expand, add locations, or go global, SD-WAN could be a lifesaver. A Meraki network, for example, can span the entire globe and still be entirely controlled and overseen through a single interface. Aside from the physical-world logistics, expanding your network in London can be as simple as expanding it in the next room down the hall.
5 - Better Real-Time App Support
As cloud collaboration, VoIP, videoconferencing, and other real-time technologies become more ubiquitous, networks will need to evolve to keep up with them. Software-defined networking can accomplish this, thanks to a wide range of already-existing standards which allow for discovery of user-side devices and media appliances. In the years to come, these systems should become ever easier to implement on a wide scale.
In short, it's an exciting time for networking. We may finally be ready for the easily-deployable, universally-compatible networks which various Sci-Fi and future-focused materials have promised.
If you think it's time for your business to move forward, contact Hummingbird for a free consultation!