The roadmap to SDN

Software-defined networking (SDN) has gone the way of Unified Comms before it, in that what people mean by SDN now has evolved, and it’s open to different interpretations depending upon context. With analysts IDC forecasting in February 2016 that the worldwide SDN market will be worth nearly $12.5 billion in 2020*, it’s clearly here to stay, so how has the market’s understanding of SDN changed?

Just as a UC conversation around productivitycould be focused on the time-saving benefits of Instant Messaging and Presence, another audience could see the same question and point to how Active Directory integration, click-to-call or video calling can reduce time spent travelling to meetings.

Now, we have the SDN conversation evolving from bandwidth changes and network function virtualisation (including monitoring and management), through to smart routing. Whilst we are used to seeing network capacity increasing every couple of years, the way data is routed and managed had not undergone any radical changes for thirty years, until SDN came along.

The ‘traditional’ network management and routing becomes the equivalent of using a roadmap, rather than the smartphone navigation app of SDN. Just like a smartphone app, SDN looks at the shortest route while taking into account traffic flows and bottlenecks, identifying particular pinch-points and whether to avoid them. SDN will utilise back-up routes, such as the internet for example, to relieve capacity by routing low priority traffic over it. Similarly, SDN monitors the network and responds to incidents or congestion in real-time to minimise latency, maintain traffic flow, connectivity and user-performance.

By bringing together performance, flexibility, monitoring and diverse routing networks can be reactive to changing circumstances. Just as a smartphone navigation app maps routes in real time, SDN will change the way we manage networks, using back-up links and spare capacity to maximise overall network performance – used everyday rather than just to overcome faults.

* IDC report - SDN Market to Gain Enterprise Headway, Driven by 3rd Platform and Cloud. February 2016.