Boosting Business Agility through Software-defined Networking

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1 Executive Summary: Boosting Business Agility through Software-defined Networking Completing the last mile of virtualization

2 Introduction Businesses have gained significant value from virtualizing server and storage infrastructure, enabling IT to respond more quickly and optimize the utilization of these assets. Additionally, cloud management solutions have introduced new levels of flexibility and programmability. In this new era of agile IT, networks are the last limiting factor the one remaining obstacle to implementation of fully agile, policy-driven data centers and network operations. Traditional networks are inflexible, decentralized and complex since the management function is tightly integrated with each device and requires manual configuration. And they are built using expensive networking equipment that includes sophisticated software and specialized networking chipsets. In contrast, software-defined networking (SDN) delivers greater business flexibility, efficiency and cost savings by separating network services and traffic management from the underlying hardware, and then allowing business applications to program creation and coordination of network services through a centralized control mechanism. In other words, SDN enables network services to be implemented on commodity x86-based hardware, and simplifies the design and functions of physical network equipment. This decoupling also improves enforcement of security policies and compliance with relevant regulations, and allows implementation of new security features with minimum operational impact. In these ways, SDN has the potential to dramatically improve operations for data center operators, enterprises and service providers 2

3 From a business perspective, SDN specifically can help organizations address issues such as: Speed the rate of innovation and responsiveness In today s fast-paced digital business environment, the data network is a key resource. Current networks limit the business s ability to quickly provision the environments needed to develop, test and deploy new initiatives, or to collaborate and integrate with partners, providers and customers. SDN transforms the network into an adaptive asset that can adjust quickly to changes in requirements and become an enabler of progress. Leverage big data and mobile computing Increasingly, enterprises are challenged to collect, analyze and respond to requests for large amounts of data. Mobile devices have compounded the issue by giving users new ways to access private networks and interact with data. These trends have amplified demand for network performance and availability. SDN helps businesses respond to the changing needs of both users and the overall business in secure and scalable ways. It does so by automatically and dynamically optimizing network performance and improving quality of service. Optimize network assets With traditional networks, businesses are required to overprovision their network to maintain a surplus capacity in order to handle periods of higher activity without degrading quality of service. SDN allows much higher utilization of network resources since it provides a real-time, centralized view of all traffic on the networks, enabling dynamic traffic engineering and prioritization to gracefully handle periodic surges in network usage, requiring less overprovisioning for the same service level agreement. Improve security, compliance and active defense Traditional networks are configured and managed on a per-device basis, which is not conducive to secure and compliant operations in dynamic, virtualized data center operations. SDN enables centralized, policy-driven enforcement of network policies and security protocols. SDN programmability also can play a role in the ability to deploy active defense strategies. Enhance virtualization and cloud orchestration Virtualization has introduced flexibility into data centers, including selfservice provisioning of virtual servers and storage. On top of this, cloud platforms can dynamically migrate these resources to different physical locations to recover from host failures or enable better performance. The existing network infrastructure, however, cannot be programmed dynamically, so any change in network topology needs to be implemented manually. SDN programmability and virtualization allows cloud orchestration platforms to change network configuration dynamically, improving response time for cloud services and reducing the network management administration, which increases productivity and efficiency. SDN also can make it possible to seamlessly migrate data and computing needs between public and private cloud infrastructures on an ad-hoc basis, which is particularly beneficial in disaster response or heavy compute loads on internal clouds. This capability also simplifies disaster recovery and business continuity operations by allowing migration of whole application environments, including network configuration and services. Lower operational and capital expenditure With SDN, organizations no longer need to physically configure and manage networking devices, nor move hardware and cables to reconfigure the network. The SDN controller centralizes all management functions and significantly improves engineer/ node ratios. SDN also has the potential to reduce capital expenditures by commoditizing the network hardware. 3

4 A technical view of SDN SDN improves business agility and efficiency by reducing the complexity at the network level. Network devices are comprised of tightly integrated network data-forwarding functions and control and management functions, resulting in complex devices that operate independently. SDN simplifies this paradigm by separating the data forwarding and control functions. SDN achieves this by creating three abstraction tiers to replace the physical view of the network. These tiers each serve a specific purpose, and collectively enable network interoperability, centralized management and programmability. (See Figure 1.) The Data Plane Tier consists of physical network devices. These devices perform only packet forwarding and delegate all intelligent functions to the centralized control plane. This simplifies configuration and management of the network hardware, and because the controller manages all devices, it enables interoperability and standardization across devices. The Control Plane Tier consists of a controller application running on commodity servers. The controller maintains a global view of the network and directs the flow of traffic. It performs all routing and switching calculations necessary for all devices in the network. The control plane becomes a platform that exposes two distinct interfaces: the southbound interface is used to configure devices and control data flows, while the northbound interface is used by applications to orchestrate network services. The OpenFlow protocol has emerged as the main open standard for the southbound interface and is backed by the largest users of network equipment, while many vendors offer complementary proprietary protocols. The northbound interface is where the exponential growth potential of SDN resides, providing a mechanism through which vendors and third-party providers can create software applications that implement new network services and functionality, such as auto provisioning networks, or catching spam entering the network before it reaches servers or applications. The Application Tier consists of software applications that communicate with the controller via the northbound interface to implement various network services and functions. This framework allows application developers to focus on developing the desired functionality rather than dealing with complexities of the distributed network control mechanism of traditional networks. This is likely to enable the creation of a multitude of innovative network applications. Figure 1: SDN Abstraction Tiers Application Tier Control Plane Tier Controller Data Plane Tier Northbound Interface Southbound Interface Controller 4

5 How does SDN boost business agility? Imagine a company that decides to announce major news via video conferencing, which will result in a major spike in the number of people viewing the conference. This requires the company to add computing resources to its video conferencing service, extend network policies to those services, and reconfigure the network to prioritize the traffic for this event over less interactive traffic such as . Today, the firm would be able to easily adjust its virtualized computing resources through its orchestration platform, but the network would require manual reconfiguration of each device. With SDN, the firm could use the same orchestration platform to adjust the network on the spot. Think of SDN as similar to traffic management in a major city. Instead of employing police officers at every intersection who must talk to each other to route vehicles appropriately, the city installs traffic lights with sensors and cameras. These devices are then controlled centrally and intelligently from one location, using a small squad of police officers who have visibility across the entire city and can make decisions about how to route traffic optimally. 5

6 SDN use cases Organizations can benefit from SDN in a number of scenarios, including: Data center and private/public/ hybrid clouds SDN allows cloud management platforms to virtualize and orchestrate network services along with computing and storage resources. Using security, privacy and availability requirements of each application, cloud platforms can dynamically configure networks to deliver the necessary virtualized privacy, firewalling and load balancing for each application. All such policies then automatically follow the virtual machine as it physically migrates through the cloud infrastructure. SDN also enables cloud providers to offer tiered networking services to their tenants. This allows tenants to fine tune the network performance of each application just like they do with computing and storage resources. Application-specific service level agreements (SLA) and SLA auditing SDN allows IT departments to define per-application policies governing service level requirements and dynamically enforce those policies even when the underlying application resources change. Auditable isolation for financial/ government regulatory compliance Many regulations require applications to reside in isolated environments. However, this is difficult to implement in highly virtualized data centers. SDN accommodates this by means of virtual isolated networks for each application, which dynamically adjust to movement and scaling of the application resources. The centralized management capability of SDN provides an integrated view and enables policy-based audits of isolation across all applications and infrastructure. WAN optimization The recent rise in data volumes across networks has resulted in a rapid expansion in the use of WANs for service providers, enterprises and data center operators. This has caused an increase in complexity of managing and optimizing WAN resources across vendor-proprietary devices and management interfaces. SDN addresses this problem by simplifying network management, route calculations and network topology reconfigurations. Flow and packet capture networks Many organizations use Tap aggregation systems to capture traffic flows, as well as full network packet streams in order to perform performance and security monitoring, analytics and forensics. SDN can be used as a low-cost alternative to Tap aggregation systems that easily accommodates connectivity between 1G, 10G and 40G network ports, as well as load balancing across multiple business systems, thereby extending the life cycle of existing investments. 6

7 Conclusion SDN is a major development in the networking industry and has the potential to be a disruptive technology. It has generated considerable interest in the market and all networking vendors, along with many startups, are implementing products to address this market. While there are differing views about the exact definition of SDN, it is likely that several implementations will emerge as standards and their features will converge in the future. It is also likely that integration technology, such as SDN federation, will emerge to allow interoperability among different vendors. Given this activity, it is time for businesses to start assessing and planning for the integration of SDN into their operations. Two-year SDN plan Assign an executive sponsor to drive SDN activities. Assess how SDN can contribute to the company s strategic plan for value creation and competitive differentiation. Assess current network operations and identify major pain points that can be addressed by SDN. Evaluate the organization s readiness for SDN, including processes, governance model and people. Investigate market SDN offerings to find the best match for the company s specific needs. Conduct one or more proof-of-concept implementation(s) of SDN technologies. Develop a comprehensive transition plan to carry out the required organizational and technological changes needed for SDN implementation. Taking these steps will not only help IT operations become more agile and efficient, but also support the enterprise in four key areas: Improve operational and capital expenditures SDN reduces the level of effort required to operate and maintain enterprise and service provider networks. It helps organizations maximize the utilization of existing network assets and may lead to lower acquisition cost for network hardware. Increase top line revenue The agility and efficiency of SDN will enable companies to direct more resources into building new capabilities. It will also allow organizations to create innovative solutions for customers and bring them to market more quickly. Strengthen security SDN enables a more flexible approach to network-based security, including policybased security implementation, rolebased access control and active defense. Enhance compliance SDN can make it easier for organizations to monitor, report and comply with both internal and external regulations. 7

8 About Accenture Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 261,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, Its home page is About Accenture Emerging Technology Innovation Accenture s Emerging Technology Innovation group is responsible for incubating the next generation of Accenture s technology services. By partnering with Accenture Technology Labs, Emerging Technology Delivery and the Technology Industry Ecosystem, it provides expert services to identify, pursue and deliver advanced and emerging technologies with pioneering clients. Contact For more information about implementing Software-Defined networking in your IT operations or business, please contact: Hooman Abrishami Copyright 2013 Accenture All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and High Performance Delivered are trademarks of Accenture /

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