TechBeat: Software defined networking


11 May 2015

When respondents were asked about the perceived risks of SDN technologies, a different picture emerged.

Firstly, respondents were asked if they had specific security concerns in relation to SDN. Almost a third (32%) said yes, while 14% disagreed, but just over half (53%) said they didn’t know. Again this metric betrays a lack of knowledge that could be a potential bar to implementation.

“The large percentage of respondents that don’t know enough to answer the question is reflective of its low penetration in general, but it is right for roughly a third of respondents to harbour concerns over security,” said Maher. “As network architecture becomes more layered and complex, and amount of network traffic rises, there is a heightened risk that malicious activity will go undetected. Security should always be a prime consideration when evaluating any networking technologies.”

Respondents were asked if they perceive SDN technologies as being inherently more or less secure than more traditional networking technologies. The same 18% said 0they thought the technologies were more secure as less, but the balance (64%) were of the opinion that SDN technologies were about the same in terms of security as current networking technologies. While this is not a terribly enlightening response, it does further highlight the need for consultation with technology vendors and implementation partners to ensure that such concerns are adequately addressed.

When asked to specify their top three risks related to SDN technologies in terms of implementation and impact, the clear leader was lack of knowledge to properly evaluate the technology (72%), followed by lack of skills to implement and manage (63%). Of note was that for more than half of respondents (51%) increased complexity of network architecture was a risk, despite the promise of such technologies to reduce current levels of complexity and increase the ease of network configuration.

04_What do you see as the main risks around SDN please select three_resized

What do you see as the main risks around SDN? (Select 3)

Security risks were specified by only a third of respondents, tallying with the previous security question. In the other category, a concern was expressed over support issues between various vendors in the software and hardware space, perhaps motivated by the somewhat fluid situation in relation to SDN standards.

“The responses to this question show that, as suspected, the majority of organisations need consultation and support at both the evaluation and implementation stage of SDN projects, as well as showing concerns around complexity and security,” said Maher.

“It is interesting that a good proportion see loss of control as a significant risk,” said Maher. “This is likely linked to a general consensus that respondents feel that they have a lack of knowledge to evaluate as, with the correct approach to specifying, architecting, deploying and maintaining SDN projects, network engineers should in fact be empowered to take greater control of network assets and performance.”

The picture that emerges from the results is of a broad understanding of the promise and benefits of SDN technologies, tempered by concerns over skills and security, but with a certain momentum behind adoption nevertheless.

The lack of skills and knowledge is not surprising, but the indications that organisations are not yet leaning on partners and vendors to fill this gap is a little worrying, as there are clear precedents and examples that show the benefits of such sources.

It would appear as if the messaging coming from vendors as to the benefits of SDN are certainly sinking in, but those same vendors could perhaps step up their efforts and ensure that skills and training are more widely available to aid organisations in their evaluation and proof of concept efforts so that informed decisions can be made based on real world examples.

05_What do you consider as the greatest advantages of SDN technologies please select three_resized

What do you consider as the greatest advantages of SDN technologies? (Select three)

There is no doubt that the SDN trend is changing the face of networking, in terms of what can be achieved, but also in the move toward ‘white box’ networking that bucks the big name trend of recent years. It may be a positive that as fear of vendor lock-in recedes, vendors may take this as sufficient impetus to offer more consultative services and support to allow organisations to understand how SDN capabilities can benefit them individually. With vendors eager to seed new technologies to provide case studies and reference sites, organisations should be able to capitalise on this need, bridging any knowledge gap that may exist internally.

With the benefits well communicated, SDN technologies look set for a good adoption path in Ireland. With a watchful eye on security, and better leverage of partner and vendor resources, Irish organisations look set to benefit from this deepening wave.




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