Much has been written about the impact of software defined networks (SDNs) in the data center and enterprise network. The key question that all IT professionals are asking about SDN is what is the business value to their organization in adopting SDN technologies? SDN technology is new – and therefore time consuming to learn and potentially disruptive to installed networks. From the IT professional’s viewpoint, the business value of SDNs must outweigh the “cost” (in dollars or time) of SDN implementation.
The business value proposition for SDN comes in a 3 main categories:
- Lower CAPEX
- Lower OPEX
- Network Agility
Lower CAPEX is pretty straightforward. SDN offers the potential to lower the costs of relatively expensive network gear including Ethernet switches (Layer2), routers (Layer 3) and Layer 4-7 products, such as server load balancers, WAN optimization, firewalls, and IP VPNs. This CAPEX advantage is especially interesting in green field hyperscale data centers (e.g. Google).
Lower OPEX is a leading target due to the costs to IT organizations of network professionals needed to configure, manage, and support the full Layer 2-7 network stack. If SDNs can make network operations more self-serve and more automated then this is clear win in terms of business value.
Network Agility refers to the potential for SDN to offer significant improvements on how networks support IT operations. The classic data center example is reducing the time it takes to provision the network and security services around a new workload or VM. Another application is the ability to segment (or slice) the network to provide highly secure, multi-tenant services (either public cloud or enterprise). For Those organizations that rely on their network as a key part of IT (e.g. financial services, high distributed retail organizations, and education), SDNs ability to improve network agility will be additive to business value.
IT professionals looking to implement SDN technologies in their organization should carefully evaluate the business value benefits SDN will bring to their networks in the specific categories of CAPEX, OPEX, and network agility.