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How can my company reap the advantages of SDN if its culture is risk-averse?

SDN expert Will Murrell discusses how the advantages of SDN will speak to cautious companies only when network engineers can make a case for SDN's lower cost and high functionality.

Some companies are hesitant to deploy new technologies until they have seen what they can do in real-world situations. Software-defined networking is no different. And while at first glance the technology may seem like a daunting task to implement, the advantages of SDN, namely flexibility and long-term cost savings, are what make it an attractive option.

The biggest task is making management realize the inherent advantages of SDN, especially as standards continue to develop. Have management imagine the ability to turn new policies into network configuration at the push of a button, with no additional engineering time needed. How much cost savings would the company realize in a network of any appreciable size? Granted, for much smaller businesses with a single closet that makes up their total network, the advantages of SDN doesn't make much sense, yet.

In the future, however, once the technology matures and comes at a lower cost of ownership, smaller companies will be willing to jump in. Unfortunately, there is also the life cycle of the current equipment to take into consideration. Some companies are perfectly happy to use their equipment for seven to 10 years until it is fully depreciated. They see no reason to jump into new technology until they get what they consider their money's worth out of their legacy network equipment.

What's necessary is for you, the engineer, to take a good honest look at your network and see where it could benefit from an SDN deployment. Make a case, based on cost analysis, functionality and needs. Once compiled, you can make an honest self-determination of whether your company will gain the advantages of SDN. The keyword here is honest. If you just want to make the jump to SDN because it's the latest and greatest, you may want to reassess your position. If you can honestly say your company will save time and money with an SDN deployment, take your case to management and present it. While it won't always work, having an analysis and a plan can help move your case from fantasy to reality.

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