The network team has a lot invested in traditional networking and may resist the move to a software-defined network (SDN), but given the pace of growth and expansion of the data center, they may not have an option. The network team is overwhelmed with requests and they, like everyone else, are under pressure to be more agile while also reducing overall costs.
The Network Bottleneck
When the network team receives a request for a new server (physical or virtual), they have to configure network switch ports and implement appropriate security policies. Since most of the time the configuration work is done via a command line or shell script, it requires IT personnel with intimate knowledge of both the network hardware in use as well as the existing configuration of the organization’s network.
The manual network configuration method was tolerable in the one server at time era, but today in the virtual server and container era, application instances deploy in seconds. As a result, the manual configuration of network resources won’t scale to meet the deploy in seconds reality of the virtual machine and container era. For the organization, the task of provisioning and configuring network resources becomes a significant bottleneck in application deployment.
The Agile Network
The network team needs to look for ways to delegate some of these more mundane tasks and assign them to application or data owners while still retaining oversight. Delegation though means the use of new tools that are more approachable by IT professionals without a deep networking background.
SDN is the solution to this problem. SDN solutions provide a modern, graphical user interface with which users can interact. They also provide a mechanism for network administrators to pre-script and automate some of the provisioning tasks based on user’s requests. SDN also provides a fencing effect so that application owners can only impact the areas of the network for which they are responsible. Consequently, misconfigurations only impact the area for which the application owner is responsible.
None of this agility though comes at the expense of operational control. The network team still has operational control over all network functions. With SDN, it also gains deep insight into the utilization and provisioning of each delegated section of the network. This insight can roll up into a centralized dashboard that provides an overview of the utilization of all network resources.
A More Modernized Network
The network needs to keep pace with data center modernization. The problem is the standard way of doing things results in a languid pace of change in network infrastructure. Adopting new technology requires waiting for one of the primary network hardware suppliers to leverage it in their hardware. SDN releases these chains by enabling IT to adopt a mixture of switches from a variety of hardware manufacturers at a very compelling price point. Network administrators can then add new switches as needed and integrate them into the existing SDN solution.