Aug 03 2015

Businesses Test the Waters with SDN

Business IT managers rely on software-defined networks to boost security while reducing capital and operations expenses.

Synergent manages financial services for 74 credit unions, and with all the news in the past 18 months about hacking incidents, security was at the top of the list when it came to deploying a software-defined network.

We are protecting about $8 billion in assets,” says Trever Jackson, enterprise infrastructure architect for the Westbrook, Maine, company. “We have a huge responsibility to keep all that data secure.”

Synergent runs 600 VMware virtual machines on about 30 physical servers, so it made sense for the company to deploy VMware’s NSX SDN solution.

Jackson says NSX allows Layer 2 adjacency on top of a well-connected Layer 3 network, enabling VMs to live on the same network without virtual LAN trunking. NSX also provides distributed routing at the host level, eliminating traffic hairpinning to a northbound firewall, a configuration that’s typically found in traditional networks.


The percentage reduction in time that organizations can expect for provisioning network services with SDN

SOURCE: Gartner, “Beyond the Hype: SDN Delivers Real-World Benefits in Mainstream Enterprises” October 2014

“NSX microsegmentation gives us security at the virtual machine level,” Jackson says, noting that it provides security, load balancing and virtual private networking. “Because all the intelligence resides in the NSX controller, we can refresh switches and routers with commodity devices.”

Andrew Lerner, a research director for Gartner, says software-defined networks (SDNs) can help IT departments run more agile networks that are easier and less expensive to manage, but the technology’s real potential lies in its ability to set up the network as a center of innovation.

“There’s great potential for the networking market to innovate in a similar manner to smartphones, where IT departments set up a central SDN controller and run apps for functions such as authentication and security,” Lerner explains. “Whether that happens in the next three to five years is not clear right now, but the potential is there.”

The HP Connection

Eric Spille, manager of technical services for the Bama Companies in Tulsa, Okla., says the company has used HP hardware for several years, and the manufacturer has delivered on its promise to roll out SDN technology. “We started replacing our switches and routers with HP SDN–ready switches about three years ago, and it’s worked out for us,” he says.

Bama Companies recently deployed an HP SDN Controller and runs three applications over the controller: Microsoft Lync, DNS optimization software and a monitoring application that delivers a 3D view of the network.

While Gartner’s Lerner likens SDNs to the rise of smartphones, Spille looks at it from a networking point of view. He compares SDN technology to the emergence of Wi-Fi networks in the late 1990s. Back then, all the intelligence resided on the access point, so if something broke down, network managers had to go to the source.

“We had a Microsoft Exchange issue recently, and now with virtualization, we can do a virtual capture and fix the problem from a central console without having to go onsite down to the port level,” Spille says. “It’s a great timesaver for our network managers.”

Spille adds that Bama Companies also has security on its list and looks forward to virtualizing and centralizing security functions.

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