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Top Six Attributes Needed In A Software-Defined Network

By Milind Pansare in · Technology · April 13, 2017
This four-part blog series lays out the evolution from SDN to SD-LAN as well as the benefits of both. Last week I discussed enterprise wired and wireless networks. Today, I will put forth a list of what network decision makers should look for in a software-defined enterprise wired and wireless LAN solution.
To kick things off, let's discuss enterprise wired and wireless networks. In my next post, I will drill down and make a list of what network decision makers should look for in a software-defined enterprise wired and wireless LAN solution.

Given the importance of LAN and WLAN to enterprise networking initiatives, there is a need for a software-defined solution for the enterprise campus. 

Specifically, network decision makers should look for a software-defined enterprise wired and wireless LAN solution that addresses the following:

1) Application optimization. Networks need to be optimized to run the applications most important to the business at full performance and reliability. Similarly, in the age of DX, networks should be able to dynamically adapt to the elastic needs of many applications.

2) Granular security and policy enforcement. With myriad groups of users accessing the network, including employees at all levels of the organization, as well as contractors, guests, and "things," it is important that security policies can be highly specified based on the user, device, and/or application accessing the network.

3) Automated configuration and policy setting. To ensure secure and efficient network connectivity that drives business value, policies need to be granularly set and enforced. This enables core applications to be "always on" and helps enforce quality-of-service (QoS) levels for enterprise voice and video applications. Concurrently, the number and scale of enterprise users, devices, and applications necessitate a more automated configuration and policy experience so that IT staff can focus on strategic network initiatives rather than "keeping the lights on."

4) Dynamic network segmentation. With the impending onslaught of IoT devices in many organizations, network segmentation becomes more important than ever. By creating different segments, enterprise IT can streamline configuration and policy setting for each segment and also contain the impact of an IoT breach. SDN is a natural enabler of network segmentation.

5) Public or private cloud management. IT may seek cloud management for enterprise campus networking for many reasons, including centralized, single pane-of-glass manageability for distributed locations; a less hardware-centric architectural model; and the ability to shift costs from capex to opex. Many organizations seek the flexibility of being able to choose between public and private cloud deployment options within the same architecture, making it possible to switch from public to private without a rip and replace of hardware and disruption to business operations. These factors also make cloud-managed networking amenable to a software-defined orientation.

6) API compatibility. Because network applications are increasingly integral to business strategy, it is important that a campus network architecture provides open APIs so that applications can be developed natively for the network on which they will run. These applications can serve technical use cases such as network management and monitoring and development of WiFi or LAN as a managed service, or they can be business applications such as those for offering location-based services (LBS), loyalty engagement, or patient and guest check-in, among many other examples. Such applications can help transform the network from a cost center to a profit center.

Long gone are the days of plug-and-play networking. Before the explosion of mobility, apps, and IoT, network management was a alot simpler. Today, we require much more robust solutions. Enter SD-LAN (Software Defined LANs). 

In my next post, I will pull SD-LAN into the discussion.

Milind Pansare (@milindpansare)

Milind Pansare is Strategic Marketing Director at Aerohive, responsible for working with Aerohive’s strategic alliance initiatives, corporate messaging and positioning, and working with key industry analysts. Prior to Aerohive Milind has led Product Marketing at several Silicon valley cloud startups, and held marketing and engineering leadership positions at companies such as Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), Saba Software, and HP. Milind holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science.