Software-Defined Environment: The Future of Networking

By: Fran Howarth - Leave a comment


A software-defined environment refers to the optimization of the infrastructure needed in computing — this includes compute, storage and network resources — so that it’s more adaptable to workloads typically being seen today. Among the technology challenges facing organizations are increased use of cloud, higher demand for collaboration, the need to use big data analytics and increasing mobility. A software-defined environment is ideal for meeting these challenges.

Greater Flexibility

Traditional network architectures tend to be complex and inflexible, taking long periods of time to procure and implement the components required. This makes them unsuited to the dynamic environments required today. In a software-defined environment, workloads can be dynamically assigned to resources as needed based on the characteristics of certain applications, which are the best resources available and the service-level policies necessary for optimizing and reconfiguring resources to meet changing requirements.

In a software-defined environment, automation replaces manual tasks to create an adaptable, agile, robust and high-performance network environment. Supporting that environment are policy-based compliance checks, automated updates and the centralized management of these tasks.

Software-defined environments virtualize computer, storage and networking resources for software-driven programmability. This helps better orchestrate provisioning practices and automate the configuration and management of company equipment. Modern ops teams treat devices less like pets and more like cattle, according to a piece by Engine Yard cited on, and one might think of software-defined networking as a necessary move to keep up with this practice.

The Benefits of Software-Defined Environments

A recent white paper highlights several benefits associated with adopting a dynamic, software-defined environment. These include:

  • The ability to orchestrate infrastructure provisioning in a matter of minutes, rather than days or hours.
  • The ability to deploy applications faster due to the provision of predefined templates.
  • The continuous optimization and reconfiguration of your infrastructure in order to respond to peaks in demand from the use of devops automation.
  • Centralized management across hybrid IT management domains.

Organizations can also create a competitive advantage much more rapidly because of the short time it takes to deploy their networks. This includes cloud-based workloads, which make it easier to migrate to hybrid computing and IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) environments that provide greater speed, flexibility and reduced costs of deployment. Security, visibility across the network and instant policy implementation are all more readily available to a business whose recurring operations are automated via a software-defined environment.

Who’s Adopting?

Not every organization has gone down the path of virtualization, and those that haven’t may not consider it right for their businesses. For some, ITaaS may prove to be a better option. Still others feel software-defined environments are still a little futuristic, but there appear to be more developments to come.

By mid-2015, according to the Aberdeen Group, 13 percent of organizations had already gone down the software-defined route and 18 percent were planning to do so within a year. However, only 5 percent of those who had adopted a software-defined environment described their adoption rates as mature. The rest considered themselves to be early adopters — piloting or testing adoption, or doing research only at that preliminary point.

Serverless Computing

Over a longer timeframe, some are looking at the concept of serverless computing. This doesn’t literally mean there are no servers, but rather that they’re hidden from developers through the use of microservice-oriented solutions which break complex applications into components that can easily be swapped out and exchanged. Containers are also likely to be used more often for application and service delivery. Components of applications can be divided among multiple containers, which can then work together to create a unified application. An example given by ZDNet of why this might be required is where the authorization component for credit card transactions could reside in a separate container located on more robust systems than other components of the overall application. This would allow the business to increase the performance of the application as a whole.

The use of software-defined environments will only increase, allowing you to boost productivity and enable greater innovation in the process. Organizations that espouse such an environment will ultimately position themselves to take advantage of things like big data analysis and the IoT much more effectively.

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About The Author

Fran Howarth

Freelance Writer

Fran Howarth is an industry analyst and writer specializing in cybersecurity. She has worked within the security technology sector for more than 25 years in an advisory capacity as an analyst, consultant and writer. Fran focuses on the business needs for security technologies, with a focus on emerging technology sectors. Current areas of focus include... Read More