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Software defined networkSoftware-defined networks (SDNs) represent a huge opportunity for managed service providers to more efficiently manage networks. Instead of needing a technician to manually program each network device one at a time using a command line interface (CLI), an SDN enables the entire network to be programmatically managed either via application programming interfaces (APIs) or a graphical user interface built on top of those APIs.

But, to take advantage of an SDN’s capabilities, organizations have needed to either upgrade their network infrastructure or cobble together a variety of open source technologies. Given limited budgets and a shortage of networking professionals with programming skills, the shift to SDNs has, not surprisingly, been an extended process.

MarketInsigtsReports forecasts the enterprise SDN market will grow at a compound annual rate of 10 to 15 percent from 2018 to 2023. While that suggests a healthy growth rate, the shift to SDNs will take time to fully mature. The average lifecycle of a network switch can be anywhere from two to five years. That means legacy networking equipment is likely to be part of the network management equation for years to come.

Easing the transition

Now Gluware is looking to accelerate that transition by making it possible to use a Config Modeling tool to layer the Gluware Control orchestration and automation framework on top of existing brownfield networks. Gluware also provides a Config Drift application that reads the current configuration state of every device and compares it to the previous known state to flag any changes. Each change can be viewed to see if it needs to be approved or remediated.

Gluware CEO Jeff Gray says organizations are under more pressure to address network automation than ever. It takes a few seconds to provision a virtual machine, but the network services attached to those virtual machines can take days or weeks. Gluware Control enables that process to occur in seconds or minutes without requiring organizations to find the capital required to rip and replace existing switches and routers, says Gray. That’s critical because the rate at which new applications are being built and deployed is accelerating.

Opportunities for MSPs

SDNs are a double-edged sword for MSPs. Thanks to automation, SDNs make it simpler to manage networks at scale. But, they also make it more tempting for providers of networking equipment to sell managed services. The good news is that most customers and MSPs prefer not to get locked into a single networking equipment provider, so platforms such as Gluware Control give them greater control over their networking destiny.

MSPs can continue to dispatch technicians to manage that equipment using a CLI, or they can start to modernize their operations. MSPs that start modernizing now will be more profitable in the short term than MSPs that continue to rely on manual processes. The challenge now is figuring out how to put an SDN framework in place that affords MSPs that automation opportunity sooner rather than later.

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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