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SDN, NFV and DevOps: What to know going into 2016

Posted by Hans Ashlock February 9, 2016
SDN, NFV and DevOps: What to know going into 2016

As enterprises move beyond 2015 and into the great beyond of a new year, it's important to take a look at the technologies that will feature prominently in the sights of IT administrators everywhere. 2016 promises to bring new tools and technologies that can be used in the data center and provider networks for DevOps automation and new service offerings. Companies need to know how to take advantage of these tools to remain competitive in the fast-paced "app economy."

The market for software-defined networking and network function virtualization, especially, is going to continue its steady growth throughout 2016 and beyond. Recent statistics from SNS Research indicate the SDN and NFV market will achieve astounding growth in the next several years. In fact, by the end of 2020, SDN and NFV investments will be worth over $20 billion - that's an average increase of 54 percent per year between 2015 and 2020.

While the SDN and NFV vertical is on the incline, service providers and even many enterprises are unsure what the path to DevOps adoption will be. One thing is for sure, however: DevOps automation tools can work in concert with SDN/NFV to make developing and deploying software and services an easier, more streamlined process.

"DevOps automation tools can work in concert with SDN/NFV to make developing and deploying software and services an easier, more streamlined process."

SDN and DevOps: Match made in data center heaven

Because networking technologies facilitate streamlined functionality within data center environments, SDN allows companies to quickly modify business processes along with constantly changing industry requirements. InformationWeek contributor Lori MacVittie contended in July 2015 that SDN and DevOps go hand-in-hand due to the shared goals of streamlining development and network functionalities.

"SDN has become a synonym for the economy of scale needed to ensure networks and their operational overlords are able to keep up with increasing demand driven by mobile apps, microservices architectures and the almost ominous-sounding Internet of Things," MacVittie wrote. "The focus of SDN now is not nearly as heavy on reducing investment dollars as it is on reducing time to market and operational costs."

The desire for reduced time to market is also an overarching theme for DevOps, as software development teams strive to deploy applications at an accelerated rate while at the same time mitigating risks and making sure what they're pushing live is the most effective product possible.

What's ahead for SDN and NFV?

As the new mainstream deployment model, SDN was looked at with hesitation by many IT admins and software developers. Network World contributor Jim Duffy noted that the existence of legacy IT systems could stifle SDN adoption, as these older technologies could have trouble integrating with cloud-based or software-based functionalities of more current tech. Cultural resistance and bureaucracy each did their parts to slow the implementation of the software defined data center for many enterprises, and the result was a decreased level of functionality.

However, the projected growth of the SDN and NFV market indicates a distinct shift ahead for these technologies in the future, especially as more ways are found to bridge the gap between legacy applications and newer software-based deployment models. InformationWeek contributor Dan Pitt projected that SDN and NFV will be more widely used in conjunction with one another in 2016.

Similar to desktop virtualization, NFV offers distinct advantages in terms of decreasing infrastructure requirements and thus cutting costs. This technology allows network providers to design, deploy and manage IT infrastructure in a more streamlined manner. Basically, by decoupling network functions from hardware and running them via software instead, IT architectures enjoy a range of benefits. The key is the software beneath the virtualized network - that's what makes NFV tick. Therefore, it's important that SDN capabilities be deployed along with NFV in order for enterprises to take full advantage.

"Moreover, using SDN for service function chaining in the control plane - perhaps the hottest demand among NFV users - extends virtualization into the hypervisor and server itself," Pitt wrote. "Thus the full benefits of aligning networking control and forwarding are best achieved with a foundation of SDN, and that requires more than just trading proprietary servers for commodity ones. In 2016, the combination of SDN and NFV will become commonplace in both carrier networks and enterprise clouds."

It's crucial for businesses to utilize SDN and NFV together - and the market worth is proof that companies are getting on board.It's crucial for businesses to utilize SDN and NFV together - and the market worth is proof that companies are getting on board.

The SDN automation capabilities of CloudShell

When it comes to deploying SDN and NFV functions within the data center, CloudShell from Quali can play an integral role. Cloud sandboxes, which are basically isolated environments where network administrators can model complex NFV and SDN functionalities, helps streamline the process of developing, testing, certifying and innovating on SDN/NFV solutions. This is an important concept - one that DevOps is based on.

By testing and modeling these environments in a cloud sandbox before deployment, IT admins can avoid implementation challenges and work out issues way before these tools are ever released into the data center. In this way, the CloudShell solution supports DevOps functionalities. Because of this, CloudShell is the ideal place to start SDN and NFV integration with legacy systems. Contact Quali today for more information about CloudShell and other network strengthening solutions.

The takeaway: The value of SDN, NFV and DevOps deployments will increase in the coming years. A cloud sandboxing platform like CloudShell helps streamline the process of innovating, developing, testing and certifying SDN and NFV solutions, giving service providers and enterprises the ability to leverage the agility benefits of these technologies.

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