Why SDN – Software-Defined Networking or NFV – Network Functions Virtualization Now?

Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Network Virtualization (NV) are giving us new ways to design, build and operate networks. Over the past two decades, we have seen tons of innovation in the devices we use to access the network, the applications and services we depend on to run our lives, and the computing and storage solutions we rely on to hold all that “big data” for us, however, the underlying network that connects all of these things has remained virtually unchanged. The reality is the demands of the exploding number of people and devices using the network are stretching its limits. It’s time for a change.

The Constraints of Hardware

Historically, the best networks – a.k.a. those that are the most reliable, have the highest availability and offer the fastest performance, etc. – are those built with custom silicon (ASICs) and purpose-built hardware. The “larger” the “box,” the higher the premium vendors can command, which only incents the development of bigger, even more complex, monolithic systems.

Because it takes a significant investment to build custom silicon and hardware, rigorous processes are required to ensure vendors get the most out of each update or new iteration. This means adding features ad hoc is virtually impossible. Customers that want new or different functionality to address their requirements, end up beholden to the vendor’s timeline.  It is so challenging to try to make any changes to these systems, even those that are “open,” that most companies have a team of experts (many of whom are trained and certified by the networking companies, themselves) on hand to keep the network up and running.

The hardware predominance has truly stifled the innovation in the network. It’s time for ‘out of the box’ thinking; it’s time to free the software and change everything…

The Time for Changes in Networking is Now

Thanks to the advances in today’s off-the-shelf hardware, developer tools and standards, a seismic technology shift in networking to software can finally take place. It’s this shift that underlies all SDN, NFV and NV technologies –software can finally be decoupled from the hardware, so that it’s no longer constrained by the box that delivers it. This is the key to building networks that can:

  • Reduce CapEx: allowing network functions to run on off-the-shelf hardware.
  • Reduce OpEX: supporting automation and algorithm control through increased programmability of network elements to make it simple to design, deploy, manage and scale networks.
  • Deliver Agility and Flexibility: helping organizations rapidly deploy new applications, services and infrastructure to quickly meet their changing requirements.
  • Enable Innovation: enabling organizations to create new types of applications, services and business models. 

Additional Resources:

Why SDN in the Data Center Offers a Future with More Control http://boundary.com/blog/2013/07/08/why-sdn-in-the-data-center-offers-a-future-with-more-control/

Five SDN Benefits Enterprises Should Consider http://www.networkcomputing.com/next-generation-data-center/commentary/networking/five-sdn-benefits-enterprises-should-con/240158206