Will SDN or NFV help companies embrace their soft side?
Remember the days of minimal choice when it came to networking and the feeling of being shackled to hardware equipment? For some businesses, it’s an all too familiar experience because it’s something that they still experience.
Murmurs of Software Defined Networks (SDN) reverberate around IT departments across the country. The problem is that because many have relied on hardware along for so long, it’s difficult to switch. Add in another option: Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV). Suddenly, you have a bigger conundrum on your hands, says Franck Morales, VP of marketing, Internet and Data Networks at Orange Business Services.
The truth is that many see the benefits of having elements of software within their IT estates. First,there’s the cost savings of moving from a CapEx to an OpEx model. It saves costs on networking hardware, management and operations. Then there’s the improved networking efficiency beneficial to large companies and SMEs alike.
So why the hesitation to explore the options? The perceived incompatibility between SDN and NFV has a lot to do with it. Many ask the question of which is better out of the two and neglect to see the benefits of both in tandem.
SDN and NFV both offer a new way to design, install and manage a network and its services. An SDN deals with the network’s ‘brain’. It provides a view of the distributed network to make it more efficient and automates network services. Meanwhile, NFV focuses on optimising the network’s ‘lifeblood’ – the network services themselves.
Both SDN and NFV take a software-based approach to networking. They’re designed to create more scalable, agile and innovative networks. And these networks are better able to work with today’s 24/7 always connected businesses. Although they are not dependent on one another, they make a wonderful couple.
SDN makes NFV a more attractive a proposition and vice versa. SDN brings with it network automation that allows firms to make policy-based decisions. This then routes the network traffic. NFV polices the network capabilities. It ensures the network co-ordinates with the virtualised environments they are supporting.
The benefits of both SDN and NFV are there but the important step is ensuring that these are well known. In fact, when we carried out a recent SDN pilot for SMEs in Paris, customer education played a major role. It’s important for us to have a user-friendly web portal and that all the virtualised functions are clear and easy for them to understand. This is especially true for the end result of their choices. Do they choose Firewall 1 or Firewall 2 or Firewall 3, for example?
But the customer education must go beyond the usability of the features and cost savings. They should also appreciate the fact that SDN and NFV will feature in the business transformation process. A report by Forrester found that while 73% of executives believe their company has a digital strategy in place. Yet, just 19% think they have the right technology to execute it. Business must have the confidence that the technology they invest in has a wider purpose than satisfying today’s needs.
Not everyone feels ready to embrace a software-centric approach to networking. Many companies would benefit but until there’s a greater deal of clarity, trepidation will remain. Responsibility therefore lies with providers to unravel SDN and NFV. The story to tell isn’t an ‘either/or’ choice; it’s complementary technology that improves performance.
The author of this blog is Franck Morales, VP of marketing, Internet and Data Networks at Orange Business Services.
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