3 Steps to Getting Started with SDN

Software-Defined Networking CiscoThose of us in IT deal with conflicting priorities on a daily basis. The business side needs us to continuously develop new and better applications and make technology run smoothly, securely and quickly. The finance side needs us to keep budgets low, getting the most out of every single dollar of IT spend.

What if we could have both? The ability to innovate more efficiently while reducing costs at the same time. This is the promise of software-defined networking, or SDN. Often looked at as the networking equivalent of virtualization, you’ve at least heard of the concept, and may have even heard some horror stories of early SDN implementations that didn’t go so well, whether they were too ambitious, too expensive, just didn’t deliver, or a combination of all three.

The question becomes, then, how can you take advantage of everything SDN has to offer, while avoiding the missteps of some of those early adopters? This is such an important topic, with many potentially company-changing benefits. In this post we’ll investigate some steps to take to make sure your SDN project gets started right. And stay tuned for when we go into greater depth into perhaps the single most important thing a company can do to make their SDN implementation a success: automate as much as possible.

Without further ado, here are three steps to make sure your SDN project gets off on the right foot.

Migration made easier

When getting started down the SDN road, it’s important not to overlook the first step: Migrating from your traditional data center. If this doesn’t go right, you can lose data, see downgraded performance or worse. Deeply related to initial migration is moving your applications once you’re up and running. It presents similar issues, with the added headache of having to continue to manage your current environment.

Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) solution can be a great option for slaying these two dragons, or at least taming them. It makes migration less painful through a common, policy-enforced approach, taking much of the guesswork out of that first big leap forward. Then, when you’re ready to expand, or move those workloads to more efficient options, it provides functionality to scale up, or more seamlessly migrate your applications across multiple hybrid data centers as your needs change.

Scale up quickly

If you’re like many companies, once you’ve migrated to an SDN model, the next consideration becomes what to do when your operation expands, to new locations, new offices, new customers. This can present problems, as each new location needs to be set up, configured and managed. It can almost be like starting your network from scratch all over again.

This is where a solution like Cisco SD-WAN can really help iron out some wrinkles. It automates all the network configuration required to add a location, making the set up of each new site much simpler – something that can often be accomplished in a matter of minutes. It also provides centralized management, so when you want to change something, it automatically propagates to each location.

Open, open, open

The last thing you want once your SDN is up and running is to be locked into what applications you can run and how they communicate. You absolutely need to be able to leverage things like open APIs to make sure you get the most out of your SDN model.

Cisco ACI is a good example of what can be possible in this realm. For example, fabrics are the layouts of how different networking, compute and software components of your network connect and work together. As you can imagine, these can get very complex, very quickly. Cisco ACI lets you build programmable fabrics using open APIs, to maximize efficiency.

By making sure any SDN solution you choose allows your organization to do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding those mistakes of SDN past. There’s no “easy button” on these projects, but KeyInfo partner, Cisco, has some interesting technology that’s worth checking out as your company makes its decision.

The next post in this series will look at perhaps best thing you can do to ease your transition to SDN: automating as much as possible.


To find out more about how SDN can help your business, click here.

Chris Ticknor
Director of Marketing
Key Information Systems