Enterprises of all sizes and industries are utilizing SDN as a way to accelerate their operational agility and intelligence, while reducing complexity
The evidence of dramatic change, brought about by the fourth industrial revolution is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed. With this, comes the growing need for comprehensive, always-on, and uncompromised connectivity, underpinned by software enabled digital infrastructure (“SDN”).
As enterprises move toward distributed and virtualized digital infrastructures, one of their competitive advantages will be their operational agility. Traditional networks are not always designed for new virtualized and distributed applications and technologies which are data-intensive, require elastic bandwidth and processing power to run effectively.
Traditional infrastructure is often organised in silos of servers, storage, networking, databases etc. In distributed environments with a hybrid mix of sourcing and architectures, the physical location of a resource or process will not be as clearly defined. Yet its attributes, performance, KPIs and cost will have an increasingly important impact on how services are delivered to customers.
Enterprises of all sizes and industries are utilizing SDN as a way to accelerate their operational agility and intelligence, while reducing complexity. In a simplistic sense, any industry which has distributed or remote locations, multiple wired and wireless devices, multiple technology protocols to manage, a need for 24 x 7 reliable connectivity and who are increasingly adopting new digital applications will find an application for SDN.
Hospitals contain thousands of IP-connected devices for patient monitoring, diagnostic equipment, doctors and nurses use mobile tablets to enter and display patient information. Hospital networks are therefore expanding and supporting more devices and processes. And as they expand, the harder they are to manage efficiently. Many healthcare organizations are now faced with countless switches and routers that need to be maintained individually and are not dynamic enough to fluctuate network traffic based on an organization's needs.
1) Enhanced patient care
For critically ill patients, a minute of two off lifesaving equipment can mean life or death – vital signs data is not collected, life-saving medication not administered etc. Traditional networks can take a significant time to recover from failure – e.g. spanning tree elects a new route, OSPF failure detection and route computation processes. Software-defined networking strips away the complexities of wireless, wireline, voice networks by separating the control from data and allows the data to continue to move through alternate paths in network, thus recovering business functions much faster.
SDN technology is also useful for data migration and transferring large files such as medical images. IT administrators can manage the right data traveling through the right network paths, at the right time to ensure that large data transfers do not interfere with daily workflow.
2) Patient monitoring/onboarding
Hospitals often add, update and replace equipment. Traditionally, network configuration changes are required for each new piece of equipment. With SDN, the controller incorporates the new devices without any disruption to the functioning of the application. For example, patient monitoring endpoints support both wired and wireless connectivity. The SD controllers secures the connectivity of the monitoring system controller whenever the device switches between wired and wireless connections. This may happen when patient monitors move as patients are rolled from recovery to their rooms or a new patient is connected. An SDN controller can recognize whenever a patient monitoring endpoint joins the network.
As retail continues to evolve their O2O experience, retailers need to support modern technology both in-store and online. Many retailers are focusing on the customer experience across channels and the rapidly changing behaviors of consumers themselves. To accommodate this shift, as well as to provide the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that lie ahead, retailers need a robust wireless and wired network infrastructure. This may range from managing mobile/fixed point of sale systems, in store sensors, digital-signage management, configuring secure Wi-Fi guest access, to tracking RFID tags that monitor in-store stock and connect to key systems that enable inventory and supply-chain optimization.
1) Branch expansion / updates
Retailers often have to update the technology in their shops, update self-service kiosks, connect new locations, disconnect old locations etc. In the past, such actions over WAN would have taken a significant amount of time and cost. With SDN capabilities, network upgrades, new connections, new segments or changes can all be deployed remotely. In addition, data center/central office security and compliance policies can be extended to stores efficiently through a single control plane. Similarly, where a device using an old OS version or a banned application attempts to connect to the network, the device can be forced into quarantine or directed to an update site.
2) Managing new staff
Retailers tend to have a high staff turnover, high proportion of short term/casual workforce, high number of store specific devices. Keeping up with users across large geographies can be very complex. By linking HR events to network access policies, retailers can ease the user onboarding, for example by combining user and device databases with user access policy rules, information about that new employee is automatically translated into operational instructions for the network infrastructure, the results include major efficiency improvements, cost savings, and better network security and performance. The SDN controller can apply business rules—for example departmental access permissions, degree of mobility, expected hours of access, and so on—to the user information, in order to derive access rules to apply to the in store edge switches and WiFi access points.
As business functionality and strategy evolves, underlying networks and infrastructure must necessarily must adopt the agility SDN architecture and technologies offer to accelerate adoption of new digital applications.
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