OUR SOFTWARE DEFINED NETWORK

We've been banging on about the fact that our network is Software Defined from Core to Edge. What does that actually mean? What are the implications for your business?! All will become clear in our 5 part series.

Watch this space for the next installment in Comms Business and Comms Dealer!

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WHAT IS SOFTWARE DEFINED NETWORKING (SDN)?

Software defined networking (SDN) shouldn’t be thought of as a technology per se, but a type of networking architecture that encompasses a variety of complex technologies, simplifies them and gives greater control, mobility, scalability and resilience to a network.

With traditional networking, networking functionality is typically implemented through a dedicated hardware appliance such as a router, switches, or firewalls – each of which must be manually configured by an IT administrator who is responsible for ensuring each appliance is updated with the latest configuration settings.

One of the major problems that comes from managing a network in this way is that it takes a great deal of time and technological expertise to perform these tasks and making just one mistake in a network where everything is linked individually could potentially bring the whole system down to its knees.

By decoupling hardware from software i.e. separating the control plane (which determines where to send traffic) from the data plane (which carries out these decisions and forwards traffic), SDN enables the hardware to be controlled/managed from a centralised software application that is separated from the hardware itself.

Rather than having to manage a plethora of devices separately, SDN enables the administrator to manage their entire network as a single unit and make the necessary adjustments from a single access point whenever it is necessary to do so.

As a result, ensuring the fluctuating demands of customers are consistently met with speed and accuracy is much easier to accomplish whilst the possibility of damaging the network due to human error is drastically reduced.

Moreover, the rise of server virtualisation has made network security management much more complex, SDN enables administrators to have centralised security control point where they can distribute security information evenly through their business network across multiple sites.

By eliminating the need for manual configuration updates from a team of trained technology specialists, SDN reduces operating costs and also cuts down hardware expenses by virtualising the control planes for each unique device.

WHY IS SDN NOW NECESSARY?

SDN has been driven by the trend for on demand computing prevalent in cloud services 

Although traditional networking may have been a suitable solution in the days when network changes could be made independently from business changes, 

Now customer’s are pushing businesses for support of real-time communications, self-service applications and social media interaction that now defines good service. Future success depends on how well a business is able to support these channels and prove they are committed to doing all that is necessary to keep their customers happy. These systems all tend to be cloud based and put a much greater strain on business networks and traditional methods are no longer capable of meeting these new demands.

For all the benefits cloud computing brings to businesses, unless the foundations it’s built on are solid, the whole tower will eventually crumble. Instead, modern businesses now require a network that is fast, flexible and capable of supporting a whole infrastructure of hosted services and applications that would fail to run on a network designed to handle little more than calls and connectivity.

WHAT IS OUR SOFTWARE DEFINED CONNECTIVITY?

Throughout 2017 we worked hard to standardise our product offering to a set of templated building blocks that whilst being clear and defined would be highly flexible and enable partners to deliver the solutions their customers required.

With these foundations we could then introduce a centralised, orchestration system to span across the full extent of our network. The core system acts as the central brain of the network, implementing change directly, and restricting any manual changes change made to any core devices.

This brain was then integrated into our CRM system so that it became easy to build new services, with unique configuration setups being automatically applied to each separate customer within the network based on their specific requirements. 

 “On a traditional network, gathering all of the relevant details together for a build, generating all of the config, laying it all out onto a device, testing it and shipping it out the door could take as much as an hour to complete – whereas with our Software Defined Network, the whole process can be completed in as little as 15 minutes”

We can also amend the config in flight, meaning the config settings on routers can be updated after the order has been sent out without needing to recall them for manual reconfiguration. This highly flexible feature streamlines the ordering process and ensures that customers get the right product in the fastest time possible.

Once integrated to our internal systems it became straightforward to put our network into our partners hands through 1Portal. Our SD connectivity helps partners meet the changing demands of their customers businesses, our partners can interact with up to 35 separate points of network configuration directly through the 1Portal or via an API. They are able to send their request straight into the SDN controller, where it can be automated and orders can be fulfilled within minutes. An example would be allowing them to upgrade/downgrade their bandwidth support as and when needed. 

Security - as the SDN controller is the only thing that able to control the network, if somebody was to try and do something malicious to one of the core pieces of equipment, the controller that is constantly scanning for suspicious activity will simply roll back to its original settings if it encounters any problems.

THE BENEFITS TO OUR PARTNERS

Our Software Defined connectivity is an enabler, it provides the tool set to allow our partners to disrupt the market and sell enhanced service propositions that challenge the traditional SLAs where, for example, it might typically take as long as five days to complete a change request for a customer.

With our Software Defined Connectivity, however, that five-day period can be reduced to minutes and, as a result, it gives partners a great opportunity to differentiate themselves from other competitors in the market by delivering services more quickly, efficiently and at a much lower cost.

Unlike with traditional vendors where resellers must take the SLAs they are provided with, with Virtual1 SD connectivity, Partners an implement change themselves, set their own custom SLAs to their customers – and charge a premium for this.

Access to this automation is available 24/7 through 1Portal to give partners freedom to control up to 35 different network features of their network solutions independently and with complete authority.

One such feature is the flexible bandwidth capability which means you can now go to highly seasonal organisations and offer maximum connectivity and capacity at a time its needed and take it down again when it’s not. Other features include VLAN resizing, Quality of Service settings BGP configuration and IP addressing changes. 

With this in mind, given that the success in the modern market is not just about acquisition but about customer retention, the added value SDN offers puts channel partners at a huge advantage and enables them to keep hold of their customers as their needs change in the future.