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How is SDN disrupting the way businesses develop technology?

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While many businesses acknowledge that the benefits of SDN are too big to ignore, there are challenges to overcome, says Gary Newe, technical director at F5 Networks.
You must have read so much about software-defined networking (SDN) by now that you probably think you know it inside and out. However, such a nascent industry is constantly evolving and there are always new aspects to discover and learn about. While much of the focus on SDN has been on the technological benefits it brings, potential challenges are beginning to troublesome SDN watchers.
While many businesses acknowledge that the benefits of SDN are too big to ignore, there are challenges to overcome, particularly with the cultural changes that it brings. In fact, according to attendees at the recent Open Networking Summit (ONS), the cultural changes required to embrace SDN outweigh the technological challenges.
One example is that the (metaphorical) wall separating network operators and software developers needs to be torn down; network operators need coding skills and software developers will need to be able to program networking services into their applications.
That’s because SDN represents a huge disruption to how organisations develop technology. With SDN, the speed of service provisioning is dramatically increased; provisioning networks becomes like setting up a VM … a few clicks of the button and you’re done. This centralised network provision means the networking element of development is no longer a bottleneck; it’s ready and available right when it’s needed.
There’s another element to consider when it comes to SDN: tech development and its culture. Much of what drives software-defined networking is open source, and dealing with that is something many businesses may not have a lot of experience with.
Using open source SDN technologies means a company will have to contribute something back to the community – that’s how open source works. But for some that may prove to be a bit of an issue: some SDN users, such as banks or telecoms companies, may feel protective of their technology and not want their source code to be released to the world.
But that is the reality of the open source SDN market, so it is something companies will have to think carefully about. Are the benefits of SDN for tech development worth going down the open source route? That’s a question only the companies themselves can answer.
Software-defined networking represents a huge disruption to the way businesses develop technology. It makes things faster, easier and more convenient during the process, we well as from a management and scalability point of view going forward. There will be challenges – there always are when disruption is on the agenda – but if they can be overcome, SDN could well usher in a new era of technological development.