Is your business ready for a software-defined network?

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CIOs are often met with new demands for changes in network architecture, utility, and configuration.

Implementing a software-defined network (SDN) allows administrators to meet those needs quickly through software control rather than by making physical changes.

SDNs simplify network administration and lower the total cost of ownership to enterprises. Making a move to an SDN delivers multiple advantages but should be approached by first considering the challenges such a transition presents.

As you contemplate a move to an SDN, consider these four factors.

1. Network size

Networks get more complex as they increase in size. One reason is that a higher number of IP addresses generally means there is more change within the system on an ongoing basis.

Networks that approach or exceed 1,000 active IP addresses are prime candidates for SDN conversion.

Another factor to consider is the number of virtual machines (VMs) that occupy those IP addresses. VMs can be changed both in their roles and the users they service and can benefit from becoming part of an SDN.

In addition to managing the VMs through the SDN, the SDN controller itself may be housed within one of the VMs.

2. Scalability and agility

If your enterprise is growing and expanding, your network is changing. As remote networks are added to local networks, the dividing lines between the different types of networks become barriers to managing them because each requires different control functions.

The addition of hybrid cloud infrastructure increases the differentiation of management systems. An SDN can normalize the different networks and provide a standardized control system that allows the enterprise to grow and more easily incorporate change.

3. Security and control

When multiple network types are in use, administrators need to deploy and monitor security measures separately for each network. In addition, the security of individual applications requires management of individual application rights and access controls.

By using an SDN, a variety of networks can be consolidated under a standardized set of policies that can define security by role, application, device, and location to create a robust and flexible security structure. Evaluate your existing security efforts in relation to your SDN security plan.

4. Staffing

Make sure your expenses justify the change. Organizations with larger IT budgets and staff are more likely candidates for SDN implementations, since cutting the amount of time spent on administering networks is one way an SDN can reduce costs.

Smaller organizations with few administrators are less likely to realize ROI quickly from an SDN effort. However, companies with growing network needs should begin planning with an eye toward a tipping point at which conversion to an SDN makes financial sense.

Not all enterprises are ripe for SDN implementation. But as networks form the basis for company operations, CIOs should understand the concepts and develop a plan for SDN conversion at the right time.

AT&T plans to virtualize and control over 75 percent of its network by 2020 using this new software-defined architecture. Learn more about the company’s SDN offerings and get an in-depth overview of its vision of the network of the future.

Richard Tanner Director of Technical Solution Consultants AT&T Australia and New Zealand About Richard