IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
May 19, 2015
Building the Business Case for Software-Defined Networking
Editor's Note: Sirius and Forsythe are now one company. Sirius acquired Forsythe in October 2017 and we are pleased to share their exceptional thought leadership with you.
Software-defined networking (SDN) is almost ready for primetime.
A year ago, the only data centers that could use SDN were those that had been built from the ground up to support standardization, virtualization and massive scalability. IT organizations needed advanced programming and infrastructure expertise to make SDN work.
But in the past year, new technologies have made SDN more accessible. IT organizations are starting to lay the foundation for SDN and are planning deployments within the next year.
According to Doyle Research, the market for new enterprise SDN hardware and software will be $1.6 billion by 2017. Meanwhile, the worldwide SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments will grow from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016.
In addition, Infonetics reported that 79 percent of U.S. data centers will deploy SDN by 2017. This is an increase from the 65 percent of data centers that are conducting SDN trials now.
SDN offers a number of benefits to hybrid data centers that contain a mix of legacy, on-premises private cloud and public cloud infrastructures. The up-and-coming technology is poised to automate hybrid data centers and make them more dynamic.
SDN offers data centers benefits in two key areas: security and agility.
How SDN can make your data center more secure
Dealing with threats to your security, data and brand is the new norm. Recent major breaches have moved security conversations from the IT department to the boardroom. Organizations are getting serious about protecting their data and customers.
While organizations are making IT security a top priority, attackers are becoming more sophisticated. According to a Symantec study, advanced attackers targeted 5 out of 6 large companies in 2014. The study also found that while attackers are moving faster, defenses are not. Symantec states, “Attackers jumped in to exploit (zero day) vulnerabilities much faster than vendors could create and roll out patches … the top five zero days of 2014 were actively exploited by attackers for 295 days before patches were available.”
“Attackers jumped in to exploit (zero day) vulnerabilities much faster than vendors could create and roll out patches … the top five zero days of 2014 were actively exploited by attackers for 295 days before patches were available.”
One factor that puts enterprises at risk is the risk of the promiscuous network. The ability to connect corporate devices to other networks makes it easy for employees to work from any location. However, it also makes it easy to connect a device to an untrusted source.
In addition, today’s networks are complex and widely distributed. This makes it challenging to manage your IT security policies.
SDN helps by allowing you to build a “zero trust network”. This type of network is designed with endpoint security in mind. With SDN, you secure the physical or virtual end point on day one. Then, when someone attaches the end point to a network, it will only communicate with other whitelisted devices. SDN won’t trust another device or network until it is verified. This allows users to access all their resources in a secure manner — regardless of their location.
Google’s CIO, Ben Fried, recommends zero trust networks:
In addition to enabling zero trust networks, SDN also allows you to manage a comprehensive policy framework much more efficiently. For example, without SDN, an engineer would need to implement a security policy to multiple devices within the data center — one by one. Often, these device types vary, which creates a lengthy and error-prone process. With SDN technology, you can create a policy and push it uniformly and ubiquitously across your data center — in an instant.
InfoSec can create a policy and, using SDN technology, an infrastructure team can implement the policy. When an audit of the policy is needed, SDN provides a centralized location to immediately gain access to all policies provisioned within the data center network, even from varying devices.
This makes it easy for you to do the secure thing.
How SDN can make your data center more agile
Today’s businesses must move fast to keep up with industry trends and customer demands. If you don’t have an agile IT model that allows your organization to do business 24/7, you’ll fall behind your competitors.
SDN helps your data center be more agile, so you can quickly respond to changing business requirements. It provides this flexibility by:
Allowing you to virtualize any end point, anywhere. With SDN, you can connect any end point anywhere in your data center. This means you won’t be restricted by your old tools — such as VLANs and addressing. And you can connect all these end points while you maintain a zero trust network.
Automating your IT processes. This allows you to reduce your provisioning and configuration times from weeks to minutes. You can also automate many of your IT security processes and controls, so only authorized users and devices can access your network.
Providing a centralized management system that pushes your policies to all your departments. SDN offers comprehensive policy management. For example, it alerts you when there is a difference between what you want to do and what you’re actually doing.
SDN bridges the gap between what executives, end users and IT organizations want. Zero trust networks help executives meet their key mandates – protecting their brands, assets and customers. SDN also allows users work on any device at any location, while IT organizations keep their data secure.
While the benefits of SDN are compelling, most IT organizations aren’t yet ready to deploy the technology. To build the case for SDN, IT organizations must first determine how it can help the entire business be more agile, competitive and secure. SDN is a long-term, strategic plan—not just an IT project.
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