The move towards cloud-based service delivery architectures, consistent innovation in rapidly evolving communication networks, expected 5G revolution and increasing use of automation in enterprise functions has made SDN an area of great potential for any large enterprise vying for greater control and optimization in its networking infrastructure.
Having created quite a buzz in recent times, SDN is today on the cusp of becoming mainstay for enterprise with large network of operations. With high speed data connectivity becoming a basic demand across verticals mandating a major haul of existing networking technologies. This is further fueled by significant evolution in the way enterprises function today. With increasing awareness of the myriad business benefits offered by the Digital, today, well-equipped IT Teams headed by dynamic CIOs are collaborating endlessly with technology providers to enhance their digital presence and capabilities. The move towards cloud-based service delivery architectures and increasing use of automation in enterprise functions has made Software-Defined Networks (SDN) an area of great potential for enterprise to adopt in the days to come.
“SDN has limitless opportunities in IT networking as it can be explored for any kind of device, any model (design) or any architecture of network without buying sophisticated networking hardware. It will help in reducing CAPEX to almost negligible.”
The global SDN market too compliments this with a true blueprint of the growing numbers. As per a recent industry report, the global SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments grew from $960 million in 2014 to over $8 billion in 2018, representing a strong CAGR of 89.4%. The report bases this on the increasing deployments across the SDN ecosystem which includes in-use physical network infrastructure, controller and network-virtualization software, SDN network and security services and related applications, and SDN-related professional services.
Business Transformation in today’s digital age demands capabilities which optimize the elements of interoperability, agility, security, and the ability to run networks without much human intervention. This is where SDN is changing the face of enterprise networks transforming operations in ICT industry by leaps and bounds, offering improved networks through virtualization.
The goal of SDN is to improve network control by enabling enterprises and service providers to respond quickly to changing business requirements. New communication models and networks are a huge opportunity for the Indian market where the density and complexity of deliverables is considerably heavier than counterparts owing to consumer diversity. SDN brings better scalability, security and proven cost efficiency to the game.
Indian Enterprise Landscape
Digital consumer behavior in India has been rapidly evolving. Economies are transitioning towards Smart Societies powered by Internet of Things, Sensor, Robotics and Big Data Analytics all of which will need networks to transform and scale rapidly. And with Cloud now having penetrated into every quantifiable and scaled business, service providers are remodeling their businesses. With a data-centric, enterprises are exploring new ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency and resource usage, while scaling up at a never before speed. Fast networks and Data mines are creating new revenue-generating services consequently enabling the ability to perform at par with global peers.
“Unlike a new application or service installed in a traditional network, with SDN engineers no longer get weeks to prepare for the rollout of a new application. In fact, programmability takes the operator out of the equation.”
Head IT and CISO
Marvel Data Services
Latest innovation in the technological space has necessitated readiness of the infrastructural base for providing future 5G mobile networks in India. SDN and NFV are at the core of this move into the new era of networks and provide a whole new dimension on how customer uses data. Real time approach powered by SDN is going to help businesses deliver a new consumer experience.
On the vendor side, technology providers, predominantly the networking companies and service providers are sensing a world of opportunities in this domain. Big names have introduced new initiatives to gain a significant market share in the SDN segment. SDN players are also coming out with innovative ways to ease the adoption. Increased virtualization, growing ecosystem of IoT and intense digitalization by both the government and enterprises sector promises new opportunities in the networking domain.
As Vivek Dharia, CIO, KNP Securities explains, “SDN is for organizations having thousands of locations that need to be connected and secured, requiring bigger control to manage there IT infrastructure. In India those companies who start small, start solid with SDN and some of them succeeded.”
Indian businesses which have started their journey towards SDN along with cloud adoption are in initial stages but will grow rapidly as it is the footprint for SD-WAN. SDN has limitless opportunities in IT Networking, as it can be explored for any kind of device, any model (design) or any architect of network without buying any sophisticated networking hardware.
The major factors contributing to SDN growth in enterprises is the rapid growth in data connectivity spreading across enterprise devices and Internet of Things (IoT) in processes. This is set to add more connected data sources and serious businesses have no choice but to take this increase of data traffic to its maximum leverage. SDN thus becomes an extremely viable option for enterprises looking for integrated and highly scalable networking solutions.
“Managing the huge data traffic generated from the multiple devices requires viable option for integrated and highly scalable networking solution which is the biggest challenge.”
The adoption of 4.5G and 5G in India has arguably been the fastest in comparison with many other developed and emerging markets. With increasing adoption of cloud computing and virtualization, SDN has become a certainty for heavily digitized organizations. Another recent study tipped SDN to be the next game-changer in India with majority of large enterprises planning to deploy SDN as part of their network architecture in the coming year. SDN adoption among telecom service providers in India will go up significantly in the coming 12-24 months, as the technology heavily coincides with the exponential growth witnessed by the sector. With the telecom industry at an inflexion point, service providers that adopted SDN have reported significant first mover advantage in comparison to competition.
SDN, NFV, self-organizing networks SON, orchestration and cloud-based solutions are at the foundation of the next generation enterprise technology architecture. There is no doubt that SDN is going to impact the market both from operator’s perspective and consumers’ perspective.
In India, currently the major traction contributor for SDN is the Telecom Industry. Actual deployment of SDN has picked up across multiple vertical mainly BFSI, Retail, Energy, Manufacturing and Utilities, IT, Healthcare and Defense. The Cloud Infrastructure (Private / Public) growth is one well known factor contributing towards SDN growth.
The Government’s push towards digitization has been a major driver too. In the past 2 years IT digitalization has grown rapidly in term of digital initiatives and implementations, not only for known companies but for all sectors (private / public or government) specifically in financial and data banks. IT leadership believes that the current policy and regulations have to be fine tuned with technology evolution and market requirements as well as being more refined in terms of data privacy and digital security.
Benefits of SDN Architecture
The current digitally powered economic and industrial ecosystem has necessitated the need for CIOs to transform their network architectures pretty fast and evolve their legacy networks. CIOs today are constantly seeking out technology partnerships that can help them transform their architectures for greater agility, overall better end customer experience and operational control and last but not least ensure lowest possible costs.
“For India to embrace next generation networks, Current policy and regulations have to be fine tuned in tune with technology evolution and market requirements.”
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
State Cooperative Banks
Coupled with SDN, NFV can potentially take any network function normally residing in purpose-built hardware and abstract it from that hardware. This abstraction enables the function to be managed as a software module deployed on a standard computing platform that can also be moved to or replicated for other hardware. It will help in reducing CAPEX to almost negligible and also remove ISPs dependency for MPLS circuits.
This helps enterprises move away from multiple isolated networks, custom-built equipment, and complex operations and working with an open ecosystem and an orchestrated set of virtualized network functions. SDN & NFV deployments have some core benefits for any enterprise striving to manage a large network:
Reduce CapEx: Reducing the need to purchase purpose-built hardware and supporting pay-as-you-grow models to eliminate wasteful over provisioning.
Reduce OpEX: Reducing space, power and cooling requirements of equipment and simplifying the rollout.
Accelerated Time-to-Market: Reducing the time to deploy new networking services to support changing business requirements, seize new market opportunities and improve return on investment of new services.
Agility and Flexibility: SDN & NFV help businesses quickly scale up or down services to address changing demands; support innovation by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry-standard server hardware
SDN architecture can enable a CIO to manage their entire network as single unit, minimizing human errors in Network Management, confident adopting of cloud services while ensuring security enhancement and reducing dependency on service providers. SDN adoption has proven significantly beneficial in enterprise use cases such as centralized IT infra management, IS policy implementation, regulatory compliance. SDN is the go to architecture for Hybrid Networks which include public and private cloud with multi location (DCs) management.
Overcoming Challenges in SDN Adoption
SDN and NFV undoubtedly help virtualize networks and maximize Opex/Capex. However, a significant barrier to adoption and scale is legacy networks and centralized management. Scalability as per the business needs can be a challenge due to decoupling of data and control panels. As Deepak D Kalambkar, Head IT and CISO, Marvel Data Services opines, “When a new application or service is installed in a traditional network, typically a planning group gets involved to assess whether or not the network is ready for it. With SDN, engineers no longer get weeks to prepare for the rollout of a new application. In fact, programmability takes the operator out of the equation.”
Another big challenge with large networks is managing the huge data traffic generated from the multiple devices which requires viable option for integrated and highly scalable networking solution. This required proper planning and a credible technology partner who can incubate with the business to chalk out a proper SDN architecture. Possibility of single point of failure at central controller level is a major apprehension among businesses. Other challenges are centered on sustaining profitable growth, redefining value, delivering customer experience, innovating, competing successfully.
From a purely domestic perspective, a lack of original skill set in the domain and trust issues are the major obstacles. As Arvind Kumar, Director IT & Innovation, Elior India points out, “Skill set and trust major factors hampering SDN adoption. It is the same case as was with cloud; back in year of 2000+.”
The Right Approach for CIOs
3 Key Philosophies which support network transformation are Hardware Resource Pooling, fully automated Operations bringing significant efficiencies to the Network and Distributed Software architecture, which helps in reduction of Services TTM from Month to Days.
When exploring SDN architecture, a CIO should first understand the where and what the need is for the business. The Planning team must focus on Network latency across ops and Data / Network security before, during and after implementation to avoid any last minute break downs from external/Public network and outside DC from Private LAN.
Talking about selecting the right vendor or implementation partner, CIOs should evaluate prospects based on their prior experience and expertise in the domain. Being a relatively new framework, SDN has not just generated a lot of buzz but significant investments from both customers and providers. With maturity a little far, choosing an experiences partner will help a CIO not just plan a more inclusive and efficient architecture but also mitigate innate challenges which is where a credible partner with a good record of implementations will come in handy.
“With the growth of IoT and the vast range of applications that are going to find their way into networks of the future, the demand for flexibility and dynamic capabilities of SDN will be required.”
Arindam Singha Roy
The Way Forward
From both the economic and operational standpoint, India is in an escalated stage of SDN adoption. Owing to one of the biggest and relentless markets, Indian consumers have a knack of putting new technologies to test. Globally and in majority of APAC markets, the increasing demand for data is changing the dynamics of networking, fuelling the need for service providers to adapt to improved technologies and CIOs to rethink their architectures to simplify and optimize networks while maintaining high standards of quality and agility. The SDN and NFV technologies offer a new dimension of better optimization of capabilities to proffer disruption and monetization through innovation in the world of smarter networks. As Chandan Kumar, Director Marketing & Integrated Solutions, Huawei Telecommunications rightly envisions, “The Future belongs to smarter networks that have the capability to self-drive and maintain the networks intelligently.”
The SDN market has reached a tipping point where it is starting to go main stream and in India vendors are witnessing real traction. Telecom operators in India are in the process of transforming their traditional IP MPLS service offering to software defined wide area network offering as they seek to cater to enterprise needs. They are also looking at deploying NFV cloud to offer public cloud service like AWS and other services that they can sell.
Businesses are transforming their internal IT with modern tools and automation with the help of SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies. Large enterprises, typically, have multiple data centers and big offices that are connected. They now looking for sophisticated technology to connect these disparate environments as service providers do. The need of the hour in businesses is automation driven by cognitive or artificial intelligence.
SDN and NFV acceptance is going to gather further steam in 2019 with virtualization fundamentally changing the way wide area networks are designed. Service providers will be increasingly adopting the principles of SDN/NFV to reduce network complexity, scale easily and to bring down the cost. SDN will also open up new markets, including rural sector, which they were unable to address because of high cost of network deployment and management up till now.
The future of enterprise networks in our country will be the combination of SDN and traditional networks. In a highly-connected world, it is of key priority for enterprises to constantly in touch with customers and its own employees spread all across the globe at any point in time.