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SDN Drives Digital Transformation over Campus Networks

Excerpted from an IDC Report

IDC defines Digital Transformation (DX) as the continuous process by which enterprises adapt to or drive disruptive changes by leveraging digital/IT competencies to create new business models, products, and services. DX brings unprecedented opportunities to drive additional business value via the 3rd Platform of enterprise IT composed of four pillars: Cloud, Mobility, Big Data, and Social Business. DX opportunities arising from the 3rd Platform cannot be realized on an outdated legacy IT/network infrastructure that typically does not allow scalability, flexibility, and manageability requirements of 3rd Platform IT architectures.

Today’s enterprise networks, especially medium to large campus networks, require the agility to dynamically adapt and evolve with the ever-changing needs of business applications. They also need centralized manageability and tight integration capabilities with every other piece of enterprise IT. To this end, IDC has seen Software-Defined Networking (SDN) emerge into medium to large enterprise campus networks to address 3rd Platform network challenges as each enterprise experiences its own digital transformation. Over the next several years, IDC believes that SDN technologies will accelerate across medium and large enterprise campus networks, allowing unprecedented business agility, and providing real benefits directly aligned with DX strategies.

This article describes how an SDN architecture helps enable a large or midsize enterprise campus network built for the 3rd Platform and further supports DX.

New Realities of Enterprise Network Environments

DX is not just a technology trend, but it is at the center of business strategies across all industry segments and markets. IDC research has shown that digital transformation, enabled by 3rd Platform technologies (cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data/analytics), has become one of the major strategies that enterprises have either initiated or plan to initiate in order to handle new business challenges. Driven by DX initiatives, enterprise network environments, including branches and campuses, face several new usage-based realities today:

  • An ever-increasing number of mobile devices, mobile software clients, and mobile applications
  • Escalating interest in and usage of videoconferencing, chat, telepresence, and data collaboration applications
  • High bandwidth demand requirements: 40 percent of branch and campus locations connect using bandwidths in the range of 100 MB to 499 MB for things like cloud, video, and security (surveillance cameras and other technologies), according to the IDC Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) Survey (April 2016)
  • A growing number of business-critical, financial, and security applications, as well as other business workloads, including components and applications aligned with DX, smart digital workplaces, and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • The overall impact of expanding legacy network performance using SDN is significant, and improves the ability to support productive and seamless end-user experiences in enterprise, branch, and campus environments.

    SDN is Making Advances in Enterprise Campuses

    As an emerging architecture, SDN decouples the network control and forwarding functions, enabling the network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. This dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable architecture helps better align network infrastructure with the needs of application workloads through automated (thereby faster) provisioning; programmatic network management; application-oriented, network-wide visibility; and direct integration with cloud orchestration platforms. These capabilities can translate into significant operational savings while providing adopters with a quicker means of generating revenue.

    According to a recent IDC forecast, the worldwide SDN market — consisting of physical network infrastructure, virtualization/control software, SDN applications (including network and security services), and professional services — will have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 53.9 percent from 2014 to 2020 and be worth nearly USD 12.5 billion in 2020.

    Not surprisingly, the value of SDN will increasingly expand to network virtualization software and SDN applications, including virtualized network and security services. Given that SDN is proving itself in many deployments to deliver the agility, flexibility, and programmability that align closely with the requirements for DX, SDN is now beginning to make advances in enterprise campuses.

    For many enterprises, high Operating Expenses (OPEX) are among the biggest challenges facing their campus networks today. Aside from the budgetary constraints of accommodating licenses for myriads of cloud-hosted applications and infrastructure services, there are four critical OPEX-related campus network challenges that enterprise IT can overcome to achieve successful digital transformation: slow network deployments, poor network experiences, inefficient Operations and Management (O&M), and high labor costs.

    Aside from these four broader challenges, there are other issues that enterprise IT must solve. As mentioned, enterprise applications continue to demand more bandwidth, policy controls, and prioritization mechanisms. As applications for voice, video, and Unified Collaboration and Communications (UC&C) grow more sophisticated, they need a more dynamic and scalable IT architecture to support them. The same holds true for many of today’s most popular cloud-hosted business applications, such as those for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, among others.

    The move toward software-defined infrastructure, virtualization, and ultimately SDN has been facilitated by the need for greater network agility. That is, enterprises benefit when IT infrastructure can evolve in lockstep with, and dynamically adapt to, the requirements of enterprise applications. SDN was initially deployed in the enterprise data centers, then found its way into Wide Area Networks (WANs), and now is rapidly emerging in and helping to improve enterprise campuses.

    IDC: Enterprise Campus-Oriented SDN Solutions are Emerging

    In IDC’s Campus Network Innovation Survey (Figure 1), enterprise campus SDN is expected by many to benefit the provisioning of new network infrastructure pieces, end-user applications and services, while improving scalability, and making moves, adds, and changes on the network.

    Figure 1. Which of the following factors is the primary motivation for considering or implementing SDN in the campus network?

    Number of respondents = 240; Base = Respondents indicated organization deployed/plan to deploy SDN

    Note: Managed by IDC’s Quantitative Research Group; Data weighted by number of companies; Multiple dichotomous table - total will not equal 100 percent; Use caution when interpreting small sample sizes.

    Source: IDC Campus Network Innovation Survey, IDC, October 2015

    It is also worth noting that respondents indicated expected benefits in wired and wireless network unification, and in addressing OPEX challenges. Figure 2 illustrates that most respondents foresee the potential of virtualizing certain network infrastructure elements through SDN.

    Figure 2. Has/Will the adoption of SDN cause your organization to reassess or redeploy any of the following physical appliances as virtual appliances (software)?

    Number of respondents = 240; Base = Respondents indicated organization deployed/plan to deploy SDN

    Note: Managed by IDC’s Quantitative Research Group; Data weighted by number of companies; Multiple dichotomous table - total will not equal 100%; Use caution when interpreting small sample sizes.

    Source: IDC Campus Network Innovation Survey, IDC, October 2015

    Other IDC studies have shown that many enterprises that deploy SDN architectures report addressing some of their OPEX challenges through SDN. In IDC’s SDN Survey, 2015, over 86 percent of respondents reported some degree of cost savings of 10 percent or more, with over 36 percent reporting a cost savings of more than 20 percent (Figure 3). IDC believes an agilely programmable and automated enterprise campus network SDN solution that harnesses the power of analytics can help organizations drive the most value from their 3rd Platform network deployments, realizing the benefits from multitudes of cloud use cases while reining in OPEX.

    Figure 3. What operational (OPEX) cost savings has your organization derived from implementing SDN?

    Number of respondents = 260; Source: SDN Survey, IDC, September 2015

    IDC believes that SDN in the enterprise campus is just a matter of when. Digital transformation needs are steadily accelerating and a range of enterprise campus-oriented SDN solutions are emerging. SDN will become a necessary component of DX-ready enterprise campus networks, and IDC believes that vendors must rise to this moment in the evolution of enterprise networking. With so much anticipated potential to positively change how enterprise campus networks are architected and managed, it makes sense that relevant organizations seek guidance on how to deploy SDN in the enterprise campus to realize organizational, operational, and business model transformation.

    IDC recommends that organizations seeking increased agility for campus networks in order to achieve DX-related strategic goals consider a solution like Huawei’s AgileCampus. With its programmability, automation, network and security visibility, and unified wired and wireless management, among other capabilities, the AgileCampus solution is a viable candidate for organizations seeking a DX-enabled enterprise campus network.

    (To learn more about how Huawei’s AgileCampus solution drives digital transformation of large and midsize campus networks, please scan to download the complete IDC report)

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