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SDN The real transformation

The software-defined networks are much more than a technology. They are a total IT and business transformation.

Carla Coelho, special for LogicalisNow

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In an ever-changing market, companies worldwide are seeking technological innovations to remain competitive. No matter the size or industry, they must adopt technologies able to ensure their business’ digital transformation. Way beyond a technological evolution, the software-defined networks (or SDN) are a necessary transformation to accommodate ICT’s new needs. With this technology, companies, including carriers, have a more efficient network able to ensure relevant benefits to the business and support the digital transformation.

A large slice of the Brazilian market is already alert about SDNs, whether by studying, assessing, experimenting and even adopting the most suitable network model for the company. According to Logicalis technology manager, Larisse Gois, software-defined networks’ adoption is a trend, and this year should be the year for Brazil. “SDN is a digital transformation enabler, as it allows the CIO to adopt new technologies and new business to the organization. Furthermore, it allows the client a smarter use of the resources they already have,” she says.

  • MORE FLEXIBILITY AND DYNAMISM
  • BETTER CONNECTIVITY AND COVERAGE
  • MORE VISIBILITY AND EFFICIENCY
  • SECURITY
  • CONTROL AND QUALITY
  • LESS ERROS AND INCREASED PERFORMANCE
  • INTELLIGENCE
  • COST REDUCTION AND EFFICIENCY GAINS
  • OWN WAN

It is the case with Locaweb, an Internet services provider that constantly invests in a network technological refreshment, replacing equipment with more modern ones and with greater capacity to meet customers’ demand. “One current Locaweb investment regarding network innovation is SDN to act together with cloud computing,” says the network engineer, Tiago Hirao.

“Every day, we need more agility in services delivery”

Tiago Hirao, Locaweb’s network engineer

For Hirao, SDN benefits are, among others, improvement and closing operation of data center virtualization and cloud computing, as well as simplified permissions for network automation, and centralized management. “Every day, we need more agility in services delivery and greater flexibility and control of used resources. SDN arrives to help in the network automation process, allowing more interaction between applications and the resources they consume. However, there is a challenge to be overcome: Professionals must learn how to operate within this new type of network. There are many benefits in software-defined networks, but the challenge is to change the way we are used to operating conventional networks, focusing in the hardware, in the physical part, and in the features developed by hardware makers,” affirms the engineer.

Combined, SND and Network Functions Virtualization (or NFV) are transforming the way communication service providers, including carriers, design and manage the network. This landscape brings new opportunities in the delivery of flexible managed services that meet clients’ current and future needs. Embratel, which represents Claro Brazil’s business unit directed at the corporate market, invests in many fronts, such as the mobile network modernization with the 4,5G technology and the national transmission backbone with photonics technology, and the implementation of a virtualization infrastructure. For Embratel’s IoT business director, Ney Acyr Rodrigues, SDN is only one of the pillars that must be combined with other solutions such as NFV, cloud, and orchestration, so that a complete digital transformation can take place.

“The technology offers an elevated degree of automation, enabling services that dynamically allocate bandwidth routes and capacity, according to the client’s needs. Amongst SDN implementation benefits is the reduction in service delivery time to a client. This time reduction can be relative to an alteration in an existing circuit or its creation, as well as faster failure recovery, improving service levels agreement (SLA). What we have, therefore, is a superior client experience, and a reduction in operational costs,” says Embratel’s executive. For Rodrigues, the market’s maturity level regarding software-defined networks largely varies depending on the case of use. “The SD-WAN got a lot of attention in the industry in recent years and has matured enough, while SDN can still evolve a bit more.” Nonetheless, Embratel’s expectations for SDN adoption growth are as high as possible. For the executive, it’s a point of no return: “SDN and SD-WAN play an important part in the digital transformation of network forging, adding new services to a context increasingly focused on the cloud.”

SD-WAN: The corporate SDN

A specific SDN approach applied to WAN connectivity, the SD-WAN has mainly an appeal towards companies with several geographically-spread branches (like banks and retail chains). Among the benefits are cost reduction, increased flexibility, and better link management.

Logicalis’ Larisse gives the example of a client that was facing difficulties with Center-West branch’s connectivity, where they depended on small local providers with satellite connections, and that could have their ERP project impaired for lack of bandwidth quality. “It was after the SD-WAN adoption that the client managed to improve the network, sending the SAP connection to the best available link at the moment,” explains the executive. Logicalis has been working with the technology throughout different markets since 2013, and has, as leverage, in addition to the technical expertise, the managed SD-WAN offering, in which the provider manages the network for the client.

The expected growth in SD-WAN demand is optimistic. “IDC Brazil believes that the market opportunities will more than double in 2018 in the country,” reveals IDC Brazil’s ICT research and consultancy manager, Andre Loureiro. The 2017 Gartner-published study, SD-WAN Is Causing Disruption in the Enterprise WAN Edge, presents samples of a study conducted with 65 of their clients, which indicates that 36% of the respondents are planning to implement SD-WAN in 2018; and 66% plan to increase using WAN managed service by the end of 2018. Gartner foresees investments in SD-WAN products worldwide to grow from US$ 129 million in 2016 to US$ 1,24 billion in 2020. In IDC Brazil’s perspective, despite being prepared, providers’ offerings regarding software-defined networks and, especially, SD-WAN, are still quite incipient. “Providers have initiated software-defined network projects. They all have internal projects, with requests from market proposals and some SDN use executions. When it comes to SD-WAN, providers are intensifying discussions. They are already close to large suppliers and integrators, and our expectation is for them to deliver effective products of consolidates offering to thrive in this market,” confirms Loureiro.

Also according to the analyst, providers have understood that SD-WAN is a reality, and offers real benefits. Too, they have noticed that if they don’t get into the game soon, they will be out of a relevant market. “Strategic partnerships made by these providers are important so they can reach the final market. They are already working on special projects, analyzing each request in a specific way, and meeting the demand. They are also already serving the SD-WAN market, but still in a customized manner. Our expectation is that it should turn into specific offers and products in 2018, he concludes.