Opportunity for SDN deployments in developing IT economies

The relatively young IT systems found in developing economies could prove the perfect stage for SDN growth, with major opportunities for forward-thinking network engineers.

If you haven’t been to Brazil, you should go. Its people are amazingly positive, bright, friendly and professional. Moreover, Brazilian IT geeks are nearly indistinguishable from their U.S. counterparts -- interesting, considering that Brazil has only been classified as a newly industrialized country for the past few years. Even without decades of IT foundation, they are actively accelerating their economy with IT, which introduces a great opportunity for SDN.

SDN deployments:  Opportunity drives discovery

While it can’t be said of all nations with accelerating development, for many, a new reality has emerged -- smart IT investment can be a boon to gross domestic product growth. These are not the tired, government stimulus-driven, hardware-refresh projects of old, but real, IT-driven innovation with demonstrated value to business. Enterprises are in the second or third cycles of reinvestment based on proven results, not speculation. They are actively seeking new solutions.

IT in these nations shares some common aspects -- significant shortages of IT professionals, increasing enrollment in university technology programs and great opportunities for experienced engineers. And where there is opportunity, IT tends to reward independent thinking, discovery and a willingness to experiment with new technology. For that reason alone, technology like SDN has an advantage: There’s no bias against it.

But more than that, the infrastructure of Brazil -- particularly in large cities -- is a telling jumble of tangled cable and gear. Despite its appearance, it’s not haphazard. There’s probably more fiber, powered switch and routing gear, and Corning interconnect boxes hanging on poles across São Paulo than in many underground vaults in small U.S. cities. And it’s clearly dynamic. Service providers have flown countless loops of standby media to quickly adapt to new circuit requests.

Reduced infrastructure penalty

Often, the biggest obstacle to new technology adoption is habit, especially in networking. We worry about reliability. We worry about cost. We worry about security. We worry about getting fired. And because the networks we have today have worked with relatively minor changes for nearly three decades, we’re reluctant to try anything -- such as SDN deployments -- that will fundamentally alter the underpinning of service delivery.

But developing economies don’t have to maintain millions of miles of copper, engineers don’t manage data centers older than their kids, and senior purchasing managers don’t remember NetWare or IPX. They are jumping directly to 10G and 40G fiber, SAN not DAS, application firewalls not ASAs, and SaaS and cloud not applications on metal. They’re also more likely to see networks as a generic service, not simply interconnected hardware with traditional operation approaches.

To born-in-the-hypervisor admins, networking is a stubborn hardware throwback to a bygone era, and one they’re eager to remedy. Software-defined networking, either in the form of packaged technology on a common invoice like VMware NSX; roll-your-own open solutions; or, ideally, self-configuring networks, help overcome both labor shortages and austerity budgets. No operator wants to send a truck to configure thousands of suspended network boxes on telephone poles. And enterprise architects want the same adaptability enjoyed by service providers.

The great wait

The next year will be telling with regard to SDN deployments, especially outside of mature IT economies. There are finally enough SDN products for enterprise to buy almost turnkey solutions. There’s training and community support that all admins rely on for success and even a bit of localized certification. It’s quite possible that in these countries, especially for service providers, we could see more adoption of SDN by total percentage of IT spend than in the U.S., at least for the short term. Meanwhile I’ll be at the not-newly industrialized churrascaria.


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