This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Paul Savill, SVP Global Core Product Management at Level 3 Communications
Here’s a story of our times: online ticket sales for a certain movie release crash, multiple ticketing sites are brought down for hours and angry customers have to revert to going to the box office to reserve their seats for opening night.
What if it all could have been prevented? What if a network could anticipate and address issues like a massive influx of traffic as it happened, adapt and expand in real time to handle the traffic and then, when the surge is over, revert back to routine operations?
Among the benefits of SDN that are often touted are operational efficiency, improved network performance and greater control over the network. However, SDN offers a much greater power – it can enable the network to self-correct or self-heal.
In telecom, “self-healing” used to refer to protected network configurations for SONET and DWDM that allowed for traffic to re-route in the event of a fiber cut. But with SDN, the concept of a self-healing network takes on an entirely new meaning, one that includes adapting to real-time conditions and network demands.
SDN gives a granular level of visibility into network performance and utilization. When coupled with the ability to adjust capacity in real-time and without service disruption, this insight creates the right environment for the network to respond to unforeseen events that keep network admins up all night, events like a massive influx of traffic due to a movie premiere, a marketing promotion, or a post-holiday online clearance sale.
Historically, network performance reports from telcos were limited to end-to-end averages that, while marginally useful for future planning, weren’t very informative in the moment. We all know that when a network is experiencing degradation, in the time it takes for someone to make a decision about how to address it, it’s already too late. SDN-based reporting, on the other hand, reveals detail by network segment and by class of service, providing actionable insights into latency, packet delivery, jitter and utilization.
With this holistic view, enterprises can not only identify where a network performance issue is originating and address it in real-time – they can also set triggers to remedy issues in the future without additional intervention required. Back to our example, say you’re planning for that new release and you want to prevent network utilization from going above, say, 70 percent. No problem. Set the threshold and the network can be programmed to dial up two or even three times the standard capacity. When the movie premiere is over, the network detects the change in utilization and decreases the bandwidth back to the base level.
Forget the five nines of the past – in today’s on-demand economy, enterprises face the seemingly impossible task of meeting accelerated demands for IT infrastructure that is always up. Thanks to SDN and the self-healing network, it can be done.
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