SDN: Invisible things that go bump in the night

Embracing the right management processes, monitoring tools and IT skill sets will help organizations overcome their fear of the unknown.

Saturday night is movie night in our house. Tales involving haunted houses and ghosts are a firm family favorite – nothing beats the suspense created by an invisible presence.

Today’s data centers are increasingly becoming home to hidden entities: the LPAR, the virtual server, the software-defined router. We know they are there; we just can’t see them.

The shift from visible devices to invisible pools of resources requires organizations to rethink how they manage the entire data center – from configuration processes and staff skillsets to monitoring tools and performance metrics.

In this new world of dynamic data centers, just one mistaken click of the mouse can result in 100 firewalls being deployed instead of the intended 10. It’s a scary prospect – not just for network administrators and operators, but also business stakeholders. An error behind the closed doors of the data center can quickly cascade all the way to the customer.

Forget the scary stories   

Despite the apprehension with implementing next-generation technologies, the industry is seeing an uptake in adoption rates for software-defined networking (SDN)  and network functions virtualization (NFV).  Analyst firm ACG Research recently reported that service providers’ adoption of SDN in their data centers increased 75% in 2015, and project deployment of NFV in service providers is expected to increase at a compound rate of 44% per year between now and 2020.

According to Paul Parker-Johnson, Principal Analyst at ACG Research, “Sometimes the prospect of implementing a virtualized service delivery platform can be daunting.”He adds that “The tasks are numerous, the mix of skills is diverse, and the answers on how to integrate solutions into deployments and operations require hard work and collaboration to resolve.”

One of the most important tasks that needs to be addressed is day-to-day assurance of the new network. Paul Parker-Johnson stresses that: “SDN and NFV will reshape conventional network designs and introduce the need for new management and service assurance tools to handle implementations.”

Bridge the gap   

The gaps that exist in today’s management and monitoring tools will prevent organizations from reaping the full benefits of their SDN and NFV investments. Trying to close this gap post-deployment will be too late – the resource sprawl horror story will have already begun. Network operations need visibility of SDN and NFV architectures from the outset, so they can identify interdependencies, track changes, and mitigate risks at the same speed at which SDN and NFV operates.

To ensure you are ready for this new era in networking, it’s time to start evaluating the management strategies and assurance solutions needed to fully support your SDN/NFV investments. Assuming your existing tools and processes will do the job could lead to nightmare scenarios in the future.

ACG Research advises: “When we consider the goals operators and IT teams have for moving to SDN and NFV, we note that an important gap to be closed in realizing the promise of the new software-driven models is delivery of well-designed, vendor-neutral assurance solutions to help achieve the agility and efficiency goals for which SDN and NFV are designed.”

Trying to hide from SDN and NFV is not an option. Paul Parker- Johnson adds, “Its adoption is happening and will continue because the upsides in flexibility and innovation are high. It’s a new model and will require developing new skills and tools, and will disrupt prior modes of operation in a number of ways.”

By tackling concerns and challenges head-on, organizations will be able to realize the full business benefits of SDN and NFV – and chase away any monsters hiding in the closet.


Jeremy is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for a variety of Enterprise Management solutions at…

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