ARN spoke to Juniper Networks managing director A/NZ, Nathan McGregor about the emergence of software-defined networking in the Australian market.
1. How mature is software-defined networking in Australia and what industries and sectors of the market are leading the charge in this arena?
We are seeing that the SDN conversation has matured among enterprises and with standards evolving, adoption is growing in Australia. Businesses that need to manage complex traffic such telcos, financial services and Education are leading the charge in SDN deployment. With global Internet broadcast providers such as Netflix coming in to Australia, this will have an even greater impact as ISPs will need to ramp-up to provide more 4K high-definition video and manage traffic efficiently to meet customer expectations.
We see two big market drivers for our SDN growth. The first is around companies building clouds, including service providers and enterprises building their own private cloud environments. Some of our recent global customer wins like UBS and Nike are striving for IT infrastructure to be agile, on-demand and just like the big public cloud providers and are investing heavily to achieve it.
Other growth is coming from the concept of intelligent networks, which means that our customers’ networks can become smarter and have better analytics. If all of this data is being created, network providers are often not tapping into their gold mine of information. Intelligent networks can improve and customise services by allowing network providers to better understand customers and what their interests are.
2. Where is the biggest opportunity for the channel around the shift to software-defined networking?
We see a number of opportunities for all types of partners with our SDN strategy. First, in selling the systems we have today which all have roadmaps for emerging SDN protocol support. Second, in selling the Juniper built management, services and control software applications we expect to emerge as a result of our approach through the Juniper Software Advantage. Third, in the form of new professional services, migration services and assessment services in helping customers through the network migration process. Finally, in some cases, partners can develop their own applications for the network”
Partners will need to understand SDN and begin to explain the benefits to their customers. They will also need to make investments themselves in the way they do business on the software side of things. The skill sets associated with operating in a SDN-enabled world are fundamentally different than today. Our approach will enable our channel partners to use SDN to their advantage in taking products to customers that will work in a SDN world. Juniper Partner Advantage Cloud, an expansion of Juniper’s Partner Advantage program, is the uber channel strategy covering SDN as well as NFV technologies. Available as a specialisation to qualifying Juniper Networks Elite partners, Partner Advantage Cloud enables partners to tap into relevant opportunities in the market, providing the cloud-enabling programming, technologies, service and support infrastructure they need to deliver successful cloud architecture and servicing for customers.
3. How is this shift changing the skills needed for channel partners to succeed in this space?
With SDN technology, the shift in skills needed for channel would be to be more software and services focused than hardware focused. The biggest opportunity for channel is to move from a transaction-led approach to becoming more of a strategic partner whose revenues will be driven by consulting. Apart from a mindset change, they would also need to invest in up-skilling existing workforce and hire new skills that understand service delivery.
4. What are the biggest challenges in moving to a software defined networking approach?
There are real challenges to running a profitable business amid this exponential capacity and connectivity growth. Increased interactions between people, between machines, and between people and machines are creating massive communication flows with increasingly unpredictable traffic patterns. These two dynamics challenge traditional network products and architectures.
For many years, the network core was considered too manual, too rigid and too complex to adjust. This limited the ability to change the core to adjust to new services for fear of crippling the entire network. Today, Juniper is bringing unprecedented levels of scale, automation and programmability to transform the network core into an agile platform to unleash new levels of efficiency for flexible service creation.
5. What is driving the shift to a software-defined approach?
Service providers require their entire network to scale up, scale out, and sometimes even scale down on demand. This requires pioneering innovation for scale that fundamentally starts with high-performance silicon, extends into high-performance systems, and ultimately leads to high performance network-wide architectures.
Networks must be efficient and simple to operate. Operational complexity plagues operators and slows any material reduction in cost across the network. Virtual innovations bring SDN intelligence to complement physical strength and deliver network-wide optimisation. The manner in which the service provider interacts with the network is transformed, reducing long planning cycles into real-time control. When what was once manually provisioned is now automated, operators can eliminate unforeseen errors and emergencies, drastically increase network utilisation, and optimise the network across layers to bring down costs. For example, with SDN control, service providers increase traffic utilisation by as much as 35 percent, making the most out of current investments. They can also reduce unnecessary capital spending caused by redundant overprovisioning by as much as 40 percent.
6.Any other points - trends etc?
In Australia, many businesses are undertaking proof of concept work and this has certainly ramped up in the past 12 months. In parallel, most are building the business models to identify the real returns that SDN can bring to their business either in terms of CAPEX savings, operational costs or aiding their agility in the market.
The biggest challenge that SDN currently faces are the misconceptions companies associate with the technology. It is perceived that SDN only applies to data centre networking, when in reality, SDN applies to all forms of networking and networking services from the enterprise data centre and campus to service provider networks. Another misconception is that SDN is restricted only to software, help fuel hardware innovation. These and other myths are easy to dispel and we should continue to see the impact of SDN take shape in 2015, contrary to another myth that implies that SDN is going to take a long time.
Lack of a clear business case and a more complex decision-making process are potential impedance of SDN adoption. Even in situations where the business case for deploying SDN is clear, the question remains about exactly who within the IT organisation should make the final decision as to which approach is right.
In the past, the network group had clear responsibility and authority for all decision-making regarding changes and upgrades to network infrastructure. However, with the emergence of solutions designed to extend server virtualisation into the network domain (e.g. VMware) the server group now has a seat at the table, bringing with it a compelling story to tell. This creates friction within the IT organisation that may limit the speed at which SDN is adopted.