Five cloud challenges solved by Software Defined Networking (SDN)

Five cloud challenges solved by Software Defined Networking (SDN)

As purchasing more and more gear becomes an outdated way to upscale, companies outsource computing power from a the cloud. However, organizations struggle to combine their physical servers and cloud resources into a single efficient, integrated network.

Quick summary: This article runs through some of the main concerns about the cloud. It addresses how SDN technology solves them and how it can support a company in managing its cloud services and internal resources.

Empowering old-style on-prem infrastructure with SDNs allows companies to tackle their most pressing challenges in building a hybrid cloud.

The sum of all cloud fears

According to the Rightscale “State of Cloud 2018” report, 81% of companies use more than one cloud in their daily operations. While companies still face numerous challenges, the report drew particular attention to these:

  • Security (77% of respondents)
  • Managing cloud spend (76%)
  • Governance and control (71%)
  • Managing multiple clouds (63%)
  • Building a private cloud (53%)

All the challenges above can be tackled by implementing SDN in on-prem infrastructure.

1. Security

Since GDPR, the prospect of a data leak is a nightmare for any company. Among the challenges which building a secure network poses is keeping all the infrastructure up to date and properly configured. One of the main benefits of Software Defined Networking is that it delivers a system with a single central control panel. Such a panel allows the administrator to manage all the network components from one place, be it a remote location with just a single switch or an entire data warehouse. The administrator can use this panel to easily manage the settings of a firewall, system updates and the user access. The manager has access to real-time information about the network’s operability and usage, so spotting suspicious activities is much easier.

2. Managing cloud spend

Investment in the cloud sector has risen precipitously, but companies struggle to manage and optimize their outlays. Automating operations mostly by reducing workload and seeking patterns to be run without human supervision is one way to bring costs into check. Currently, there are numerous solutions to tackle a single network-related problem, like managing the hardware layer or a virtualization layer, but the number of tools available to manage the entire network is limited. With a single tool to deal with both the physical and the virtual layer, it is easier to manage the infrastructure, especially when a great part of it is virtualized in a cloud.

Tungsten Fabric (SDN controller) is the Swiss Army knife of networking, folding all of the tools into a single packet. It provides a centralized view of the whole network, both in its physical and virtualized layer, allows the operator/administrator  to manage it and provides the tools to automate the process. A single panel allows the administrator to manage outlays for virtualized parts of the network.

With strict control over the entire system comes the ability to lease only the computing power required – the administrator can buy as little as a single node when needed, instead of an entire server. The virtualized network is composed of virtual machines, which can be spun up or killed in no time, so there is no need to take computing power “in advance” or freeze up the money doing so requires (or burn it up, as the case may be).

3. Governance and control

Another challenge in managing a network is handling the multiple tools, and numerous physical devices, required to control every aspect of the network. By reducing its hardware, the company gains a new level of control over the network. Every machine is replicable, trackable and connected to the controller. With most of the network components virtualized, there is a much lower chance that an unexpected hardware failure, like a wire cut or a burned out motherboard in a single component, will occur. By using just a single control panel and virtual network components instead of physical hardware, it is easy to track every part of the network on every level. Without this benefit, potentially important details are easily overlooked.

4. Managing multiple clouds

Separating the virtual and physical layers of the company’s network provides greater control over the infrastructure. With a single tool to manage both the cloud and the virtualized network, it is easier to build your own solution from existing pieces offered by cloud providers. With a unified panel to control the company’s various clouds, the administrators can maximize the benefits and reduce the risk of using redundant features.

5. Building a private cloud

Building a private cloud with SDN technology can be done with the non-specialized commodity hardware that usually powers a CRM or ERP system. This lowers operating costs. Furthermore, setting up a virtual network instead of hard-wiring a physical one makes the solution more flexible.

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Although the definition of a Cloud is somewhat foggy, both virtual and private clouds have a network that allows users to share resources, computing power, an app or a single file. By opting for a virtualized network, however, the company reduces the need for physical hardware, be it a switch, a router, a firewall or any other network device. In an ideal situation, the virtualized network consists of a server room and the edges of the network, with minimal involvement of the physical networking hardware.

Summary – the backend of the cloud

As cloud adoption grows, so too do the benefits of using one. We are slowly reaching the point where using some form of cloud-public, private or hybrid-is not only a business opportunity, but an actual necessity. Cloud computing offers flexibility, security and control over IT infrastructure, making it both more scalable and cheaper to operate.

As the cloud is only a support tool, not a purpose or benefit in and of itself, using SDN technology to max out the benefits of is only a matter of time. Early days these may be, but SDN is happening right now.

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