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SDNs: Open for business

04 Jan 2013

Open networks mean networks are open for business, says Wayne Neich, Silver Peak Systems regional director Oceania, who says software defined networks create a unique opportunity for the channel.

It’s no secret software-defined networks (SDNs) will change the face of networking. What is often missed, however, is how SDNs will create a unique opportunity for the reseller channel to expand its business and improve customer retention.

With the phenomenal success of compute and storage virtualisation, application deployments are often limited by network complexity before being limited by server or storage availability.

This is particularly the case when applications have unique traffic requirements, such as big data’s use of massive bandwidth or video’s sensitivity to latency. The network can even delay routine tasks, such as moving VMs between hosts.

SDNs, along with network virtualisation, address those problems by creating a fully software-configurable network.

Network virtualisation technologies, such as VXLAN from VMware and the recently acquired Nicira, separate virtual machines from the dependencies on the underlying network so VMs can be moved easily between virtual switches, even when those switches reside in separate hosts.

SDNs, particularly those compliant with the OpenFlow specification, separate the hosts from the operational and economic dependencies of the physical network.

OpenFlow opens the network by moving the route calculation and packet forwarding decisions into open software, called the controller, leaving the hardware to focus on packet processing. As such, third-party developers can create what were previously proprietary network services and switching and routing hardware becomes commoditised.

OpenFlow also changes the way switches and routers process groups of packets or flows, so IT can run separate logical networks over a common physical network without the limitations of today’s VLANs.

Compliant services opportunity

For the channel, SDNs offer a number of benefits. Resellers will find new opportunities to engage with customers – educating them about SDNs and selling new equipment.

More exciting is the emergence of new OpenFlow compliant services, which allows resellers to add value to the SDN, rapidly. Case in point is Silver Peak’s Agility initiative which adds OpenFlow-compliant WAN optimisation services to the SDN at the click of a mouse.

Such services, particularly those developed by the reseller, increase the value of the SDN, improving customer retention. SDNs also allow the channel to reach beyond traditional networking markets.

Resellers can package and deliver networking services for virtualisation managers who may lack network expertise, but are becoming responsible for deploying and managing today’s virtualised applications.

Services such as Agility require no network hardware or specialised tools.

Virtualisation managers simply select a workload on their hypervisor management console, click on a menu option to accelerate the workload, and the software is retrieved from an online marketplace, deployed and the traffic is optimised.

The network team need never be involved, shortening the sales cycle.

Lifting the load

Offloading tasks from an already over-burdened networking team may ultimately be the best reason why IT should adopt SDNs and why resellers should sell them.

The time to deploy new applications is shortened, improving IT agility. Network costs are reduced, much in the same way self-service password resets dramatically reduced the cost of help desk operations.

All of which makes SDNs, an opportunity indeed for the channel to improve network, increase IT agility, all the while expanding its own customer base.

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