SDN adoption is happening, often by stealth
Software defined networking (SDN) was a key focus of the TechFire 13 event that looked at choosing the right path to the cloud for Irish organisations.
While the audience indicated that few considered themselves to be early adopters of SDN, the user experience contributor John Stone, CTO, Continent 8, said that if an organisation had bought a router or switch in the last two years or so, the likelihood was that there were already elements of SDN deployed.
“You don’t need to be scared of SDN, you’ve been using it already,” said Stone.
“SDN is the biggest change in the industry I have seen,” commented Nigel Oakley, director EMEA, cloud building centre of excellence, Juniper Networks.
Networks are becoming a function of underlay (hardware) which is not automated and overlay (SDN) technology which is, said Oakley. This provides for a greater level of visibility and control, the audience heard, as the appliance-based network model creates complexity and physical infrastructure is increasingly hard to manage.
Although there are many definitions of cloud computing, Oakley provided one that was not only illustrative, but helpfully simple. Cloud is the automation of the delivery of services, said Oakley.
However, even with this simple definition, Oakley said that there is still something of a disconnect in the IT industry that has meant even with the rapid innovation behind the cloud, there are also slow networks where the innovation has not been as extensive.
Overlay networks will be key to delivering cloud services, said Oakley.
Darragh Richardson, managing director, Agile Networks, said that cloud builders are adopting either a DIY approach, open source or commercial solutions, but whatever is being built, it must be adaptable.
Network architecture should be simple, open and smart, said Richardson.
A question from the audience asked if there were instances where hybrid cloud might not be appropriate. The panel was fairly unanimous in saying that there were few instances where it would be inappropriate, but certainly instances where it may not add immediate value.
There were also questions about security, and how to implement such measures in the mixed and physical environment. Richardson said that the current tools have developed to the point where this is not necessarily a problem, but added that careful consideration had to be given to security from the earliest stages to ensure that it was appropriately applied and in the right places.
Open standards were emphasised in the presentations around SDN and hybrid cloud, and a question was raised as to the maturity of such standards. The panel agreed that more can be done on this front. Richardson said that organisations must choose very carefully which standards to apply, to ensure security and compliance. Oakley said that while the standards could not be regarded as fully mature, they are much improved over earlier iterations and are a valuable guide in implementation.
There was also a question around licensing in the cloud environment. Oakley said that licensing models are changing rapidly as cloud adoption accelerates, though some vendors are moving faster than others. Stone advised that organisations need to be very watchful to ensure compliance as the cloud environment can prove tricky when it comes to monitoring.
The spectre of shadow IT also raised its head, with concerned questions from the audience. Oakley said that the phenomenon is controllable, but that it is important to monitor for such activity to be aware of it and offer solutions that will ensure it does not get out of control.