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Your ‘no pain, sure gain’ guide to hassle-free deployment of a software-defined network

If you’re a part of the IT industry, you must’ve heard the term “software-defined network” or “software-defined networking.” But do you know what it is? Well, a software-defined network (SDN) gives enterprises the opportunity to carry out various real-life tasks and impacts their environment positively. A software-defined network can program and optimize your network to improve the availability of bandwidth and other limited network resources. An SDN can stretch your network to its furthest capabilities to meet dynamic application requirements.

You might be wondering why you need to know all this. Well, the truth is, a software-defined network is indispensable to enterprises that leverage large-scale server virtualization in their environment. If your organization falls into that category, you should consider deploying an SDN. But there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. Let’s see what they are and what they mean:

Ensure end-to-end network visibility

Respond instantly to the demand for network resources using software — a software-defined network gives you that capability. However, keep in mind that doing so affects the network management processes of your company, which are necessary for the manual management of physical networks. For example, if new network infrastructure is provisioned with SDN at the start of the day, and you conduct the daily check of what’s new at the end of the day, a gap will emerge in the visibility between what’s actually been deployed in the network, and the contents of your management report. Implementing SDN is a good way to synchronize such activities.

Get rid of major network capacity problems

While it is true that the process of virtualization enables quicker deployment of new resources, it also leads to considerable overheads that need to be constantly managed. Such a situation occurs mostly during the allocation of on-demand resources. Often when the demand is no longer there, the extra resources are not de-provisioned by IT. Thus, they keep on placing new demands upon the capacity of the network unnecessarily. So, it is important to build de-provisioning into an SDN deployment as the logical final step as soon as the requirement for provisioned resources is no more.

Resolve performance monitoring issues

You need to understand that SDN is not yet fully developed; the approach is still evolving. As a result, plenty of performance monitoring commercial solutions are not yet completely compatible with SDN technology. That can only be achieved by using APIs offered by these solutions, which SDNs can easily plug into. Also important is the integration of SDN data with that flowing through non-SDN networks. Why? Because the majority of organizations that deploy SDN are known for running hybrid networks, combining both non-SDNs and SDNs. The overall goal should involve the setting up of a 360-degree network view.

Connecting network performance to business requirements

A software-defined network presents many of the same challenges that you face with manually set networks. From a service perspective, it is the responsibility of the network admins to resolve queries related to businesses cases. These kinds of questions can only be answered when performance reporting for both non-SDN and SDN networks are integrated, and the information is organized properly. For this purpose, the current performance management software you are using may need to be customized.

Handling security risks

SDN technology is fairly new, which may leave organizations exposed to increased risks. Enterprises may not have had the time to catch up on the latest security weaknesses and possible vulnerabilities of SDN. To prevent any problems later on, businesses must conduct thorough research into the hazards of SDN switch impersonation, protocol weaknesses, and others, for devising effective countermeasures.

Application security to coordinate software-defined network security

Since applications are reliant on networks, when first deploying a software-defined network, IT must follow best security practices when it comes to applications so that they get synchronized for SDN. These may include variations in protocols that are normal in SDN but not for other physically deployed networks also used by apps. Thus, the ideal method involves revisiting the standards of application coding to make sure app security routines fulfill the requirements of non-SDN and SDN networks.

Ensuring quality of service

While it is difficult to guarantee the quality of service for a network, network admins cannot afford any lapse in this area. Vendors of network equipment preconfigure quality-of-service settings for their devices during the manufacturing process. However, when all these gadgets with differing QoS settings begin working at once in your network, the overall network QoS might not be what you need it to be. These incompatibilities cause issues for network administrators who have to ensure nonstop service at high levels with sufficient bandwidth. This problem is persistent on different SDN networks, which explains why the business rules for certain organizations make use of cases and rigorously enforce network provisioning.

Use of outside vendors

Many organizations use outside vendors when it comes to network installations and services. However, when an organization is using a software-defined network, they must hire only those vendors that possess in-depth knowledge of SDN and are adept at delivering as per your business demands.

WAN integration

SDN was originally designed for serving the needs of internal organizational networks. However, numerous IT companies now have to offer high-quality network services that combine both external wide area networks (WANs) and internal networks. Since this pipeline probably flows across the public Internet, your staff needs to have SDN provisions in place if you have to integrate an external WAN with your internal network’s end-to-end performance.

Accumulate more knowledge about SDN best practices

Even though SDN is not a new phenomenon, the rate at which it has been adopted by different companies remains low. A lot of this has to do with the ongoing process of technological evolution, as well as the various points of the network that need to be brought into the software-defined network for the company to explore its full set of benefits. Thus, when you’re deploying SDN, you must develop your own set of best practices for the technology. Engaging with SDN experts will enable you to hasten the learning process and prevent any costly mistakes.

Even though your enterprise might not be in a position to implement all the ideas above, it does not make them any less important. In fact, your target should involve determining how to increase the compatibility of your network with SDN over the course of the next couple of years. A reliable roadmap and some software or hardware upgrades will ensure you achieve your SDN goals quickly. After all, the software-defined network represents the future of networking, and you should join the bandwagon sooner rather than later.

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