SDN will soon transform enterprise network

by Sohini Bagchi    Jul 16, 2013

Ravi Chauhan Managing Director Juniper India

Software-defined networking (SDN) promises to deliver and that’s why it’s creating a buzz in the networking world. In an exclusive interaction with, Ravi Chauhan, Managing Director, Juniper India explains the philosophy behind SDN and the current challenges in its adoption.

SDN is on the roll but it still needs time to mature. What challenges you face to bring SDN to mainstream?

We believe that SDN holds tremendous amount of promise in addressing the new requirements that are placed on the network. The potential of SDN to help organizations take advantage of new opportunities such as virtualization and thereby improve their business productivity makes it enticing.  Having said that, it is true that SDN is still in a nascent stage and will require time to develop. But we recognize this problem and are using the promise of SDN as an opportunity, by helping organizations prepare for SDN and future SDN-enabled environments. But the idea that SDN is far away and will take decades to see light is a myth and we believe that we should see live deployments of SDN happening in the next year. We will see SDN transforming your network soon.

The biggest challenge that SDN currently faces are the misconceptions companies associate with the technology. It is perceived that SDN only applies to data center networking, where in actuals; SDN applies to all forms of networking and networking services from the enterprise data center & campus to service provider networks. Another misconception is that SDN is restricted only to software, while SDN will only help fuel hardware innovation. These and other myths are easy to dispel and we should begin to see the impact of SDN take share this year, contrary to another myth that implies that SDN is going to take a long time.

How do you see the level of SDN adoption in India in the next 2-3 years?

At present, the SDN market in India is still at a nascent stage. Globally, the SDN market is estimated to grow from $198 million in 2012 to $2.1 billion in 2017 at a CAGR of 60%, and we expect it to gain traction in India in the next few years. But India will provide SDN with a great opportunity as businesses today are becoming increasingly dependent on the network with everything beginning to move online. At the same time, existing networks are becoming increasingly complex and expensive to change and manage. These challenges have created an opportunity for SDN as it promises to help cut costs, and improve flexibility and innovation. IT allows businesses to use less expensive switches while more control over the network traffic flow. It creates more flexibility by replacing necessary hardware changes with software updates. Over the 2-3 years, a significant chunk of the enterprises will adopt the technology.

Which is the key components of growth within SDN and why?

Businesses are looking for flexibility in the way they build and deploy their applications. Business is uncertain and changeable. Companies know that they must move quickly and devote themselves to building killer applications and services to succeed. They look to the network to support them. But too often, it falls short. SDN is the answer. It promises to solve these issues and deliver genuine agility to the enterprise and to service providers with automated provisioning across public and private clouds, agile deployment of services, dynamic traffic engineering that takes command of traffic flow cross the Wide Area Network (WAN) and holistic Management including simplifying management of campus network policies for wired and wireless devices.

How do you think SDN can boost Business Intelligence?

Enterprise and service providers are seeking solutions for their networking challenges and to boost business intelligence. They want their networks to adjust and respond dynamically, based on their business policy.  They want those policies to be automated so that they can reduce the manual work and personnel cost of running their networks. They want to quickly deploy and run new applications within and on top of their networks so that they can deliver better business results. And they want to do this in a way that allows them to introduce these new capabilities without disrupting their business. This is a tall order but SDN has the promise to deliver solutions to these challenges. How can SDN do this? To decode and understand SDN, we must look inside networking software. From this understanding, we can derive the principles for fixing the problems.  This is what SDN is all about.  

What would be you recommendation for CIOs when considering an SDN technology?

 Software Defined Networking represents the biggest change to the network in many years. What makes SDN interesting is the transformation that it can enable. Businesses are looking for more control over their applications on the network. SDN promises to deliver agility and simplification in the network to support applications. With SDN, the network becomes more efficient and agile, and an enabler for delivering on business goals for application performance. There are a number of things CIOs need to map out in their SDN strategy. Firstly, they need to invest in the right architecture, open interfaces, and flexible programmability If an organization is planning to build an SDN now, or planning a future implementation, you don’t need to hold off your network investments today for fear of protecting those investments down the road. Nobody wants to rip and replace their network.

Thenetwork buying decisions that a CIO makes today are driven by specific projects such as adding scale and capacity, building new applications and services, bringing new facilities online, retiring end-of-life equipment, and network consolidation. One should base their decision on differentiated network architectures that deliver the features and capabilities you are looking for with an added focus towards simplicity of management – nobody wants to deal with a network that’s difficult to install and use. This will reduce OPEX for managing the physical network while delivering the key features and application performance that’s reliable and predictable. As one moves forward in their SDN implementation, they will still maintain the benefits of OPEX reduction, and also have a network architecture that’s easier to integrate with SDN controllers and troubleshoot.

Similarly, what should vendors keep in mind while developing SDN solutions for their enterprise?

For those who are getting ready or are implementing their first SDN initiative, they should consider 4 key points as mentioned below: firstly, centralize management - a very achievable thing to do in a shorter period of time and generates significant benefit in operational cost savings, to move away from a distributed, current, typical approach of managing each individual network element as an independent unit, such as Juniper’s Network Director. Secondly, evaluating network services is essential. Today these services are chained together in a physical way; I have an application delivery controller box, I have a static firewall box—different boxes that are connected together. Vendors can look at which of those services could be virtualized and pull those things out, and begin working with virtualized services. thirdly, centralizing controller architectures is key, as this is where many of the benefits of SDN are fully realized. And fourthly, optimizing the usage of network and security hardware to deliver high performance as any CIO would look for this aspect in their SDN strategy.