ARN spoke to VMware director of product sales, Bede Hackney, 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?
The market has matured rapidly – software-defined networking (SDN) is ready for production today. We have customers from banks to governments departments who have NSX in production, delivering network virtualisation and realising the benefits of SDN today.
Banking and finance, government and education are the industry segments that we’ve seen the most uptake in but the appeal of SDN is broad – we’re working with customers in industries from online gaming through to universities and everything in between.
2. Where is the biggest opportunity for the channel around the shift to software-defined networking?
SDN allows the channel to directly address several of the challenges that are top of mind for today’s CIO. Let me give you three examples. Leveraging SDN the channel can help our customers 1) improve datacentre security 2) improve business agility and 3) dramatically decrease operational cost – these are all challenges that CIOs are trying to address. So the opportunity for the channel is to increase their relevance by acting as a business partner to help CIOs achieve these top level outcomes.
We can build out these three examples of how SDN can be leveraged further:
Improved datacentre security: Micro segmentation, powered by NSX, allows customers to implement an additional layer of “East-West” security to augment their existing Datacentre security and protect against attacks from within the Data Centre. Without SDN this is level of security is both cost prohibitive and operationally unfeasible.
Improved business agility: Today’s datacentres have three pillars of technology; compute, storage and network. In order to be able to increase business agility from an IT standpoint and deliver on the promise of an automated and orchestrated datacentre we need to be able to virtualise all three of these pillars - SDN allows us to bring that virtualisation to networking.
Dramatically decrease operational cost: just as compute virtualisation allowed customers to abstract their software workloads from the physical compute in their datacentre and decrease operational cost, SDN – particularly SDN that enhances security - allows customers to abstract their workloads from the physical network and again drive up efficiencies in the datacentre.
3. How is this shift changing the skills needed for channel partners to succeed in this space?
SDN is impacting the skills requirement in the channel in two ways; SDN is a paradigm shift in how we design datacentre networking and security, with that comes the obvious skills requirement from a technology standpoint. That said; the even more important change in terms of skills requirements is the need to help customers change their people and business processes to be able to take advantage of the possibilities SDN deliver. Some partners are already doing this but for others this will be both a change in mindset but also a tremendous opportunity.
4. What are the biggest challenges in moving to a software defined networking approach?
The biggest hurdle to realising the benefit of SDN today is not technology – the biggest hurdle is changing people and business processes to take advantage of SDN. SDN integrated into a full Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) delivers on the promise of an automated and orchestrated Data Centre that can automatically provision full application environments in minutes – which is powerful – but if the business process that needs that application still takes weeks then it’s not the technology that is holding you back. For many customers the biggest challenge, or the most important step is to engage the business to redefine processes to be able to take advantage of the benefits SDN can deliver.