Published by Jay Gill

The concepts of open networking and software-defined networking (SDN) have been around for a long time, and early adopters, such as hyperscale public cloud providers, have been building and operating networks based on SDN-based open networking principles for years. Mainstream adoption started more slowly, but now it’s accelerating.

Why now? What has changed?

I will get to that question in a moment. But first, let’s review two motivations for open networking and SDN that have NOT changed. In the spirit of a countdown, I’ll start with reason #5 to get started with open networking and SDN.

#5. Save CapEx with open “white box” economics

From the beginning, open networking using so-called “white box” – or bare metal – switching platforms has promised lower hardware costs than traditional integrated switches. Today’s open platforms continue to win handily on a price-performance basis, typically “50-60% less than a comparative traditional switch,” while avoiding vendor lock-in.

This is still an important factor driving interest in open networking, but it’s only #5 on the list because most customers rank other reasons even higher.

#4. Streamline operations with SDN flexibility and user control

SDN was originally intended to let users control networks in ways integrated switching vendors couldn’t (or wouldn’t) support, such as adding new protocols or modifying routing behavior. Today, that inherent SDN flexibility and control is being applied to streamlining and automating network operations. (More on that below.)

Despite those two very good reasons, open networking and SDN didn’t catch on as quickly as some predicted. Network operating system (NOS) software and SDN controllers took time to mature and achieve acceptable feature parity, scalability, and reliability. More importantly, many companies did not have the expertise needed to turn bleeding-edge technology into dependable infrastructure, and they worried that no single supplier could provide end-to-end support. Most viewed the risks as too high to justify the potential benefits.

So, back to the question: what has changed?

A lot. Customer motivations are stronger, the barriers to getting started are lower and the benefits to be gained are greater than ever before.

#3. Get ahead of cloud transformation

We are all on the journey to a cloud-driven future dominated by cloud-native applications designed as collections of microservices, delivered with DevOps speed and deployed and scaled dynamically across a multi-cloud infrastructure. Applications such as IoT and gaming are spreading to expanding edge computing nodes tied to the distributed cloud.

In this cloud-driven world, networks must change. Static, manual configuration cannot scale or respond to dynamic applications. Operational agility and efficiency are now the biggest challenges, and greater network programmability and automation are critical, as illustrated in the IDC data[1] below. Many data center network operators are recognizing the value of SDN-based open networking in addressing these needs.

need for agility and automation primary datacenter SDN motivations

#2. Get started more easily than ever

SDN-based open networking has matured and the open networking ecosystem is robust. It’s no longer the “bleeding edge.” More importantly, leading solution providers have knocked down several barriers to adoption, including these:

#1. Get more out your networks

The number one reason to get started is that today’s open networking and SDN can deliver more than the traditional alternatives:

With a large open-source community and a robust ecosystem of suppliers driving rapid innovation and feature velocity, open networking solutions can deliver more business value than traditional approaches.

In my next blog, I’ll describe the key considerations you need to think about in order to get more from open networking and SDN. Stay tuned!

Ready to get started now?

At Pluribus Networks, we are ready to help with your transformation to SDN-based open networking. Contact us and let us show you how.

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[1]IDC Perspective, “Assessing Options for Datacenter SDN,” Brad Casemore, December 2017 (IDC #US43279017)