Introducing AHEAD’s Software-Defined Networking Strategy and Roadmap Service

In the past ten years, trends in server virtualization (and subsequently virtualization automation) have fundamentally changed the landscape of data center computing. These trends have led to a dramatic consolidation of physical infrastructure and related cost savings and efficiency gains. On the other hand, network infrastructure has not undergone as dramatic of a transformation over the same period of time. While network speeds increased from 1GB to 10GB to 40GB to 100GB architectures, the basic foundational networking protocols and functions have not materially changed. Only recently has server virtualization met a real-world parallel in the networking field. Over the past 18-24 months, the concept of software-defined networking (SDN) and related topics have very quickly charged into the marketplace and popular industry vernacular.

Put simply, SDN is a framework in which a centralized controller issues control commands for traffic and interfaces with network hardware. However, fickle definitions regarding what SDN is, what it can do, and its suitability have led to confusion and anxiety within organizations regarding the future of their computer networks. Initially, many considered SDN to be a new buzzword. But it is becoming increasingly clear that SDN promises to transform the data center in much the same way as virtualized computing did.

Although SDN existed far before a palpable commercial market, the recent explosion of awareness and product offerings from industry players (old and new) is remarkable. VMware’s acquisition of Nicira (known now as VMware NSX) in 2012 and Cisco Systems’ spin-in acquisition of Insieme (known now as Cisco ACI) in 2013 seemed to catapult the conversation around SDN into the mainstream. However, both VMware and Cisco have seen slow adoption of SDN technologies in large part due to the confusion and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) created by competitive Cisco/VMware messaging. Additionally, most organizations and network architects have struggled to define the appropriate use case for SDN technologies.

Although Cisco and VMware are two of the most recognizable vendors associated with the evolving definition of SDN, there are many startups as well as established firms offering their own brand and vision of SDN. Cumulus Networks, based on Debian Linux, bills itself as an “Open Network” vendor that runs its networking operating system on compatible merchant-silicon switching hardware. Big Switch Networks, which makes use of the OpenFlow protocol and its own controller, can control commodity switches named on a hardware compatibility list.

There is no doubt that networking is undergoing an exciting (and overdue) transformation. There are many approaches that have emerged for SDN. VMware NSX and Cisco ACI are leading enterprise class solutions in the marketplace today. Still, careful evaluation of vendor solutions against use cases is required to determine the optimal strategy and realize the full benefits of SDN. Sometimes, a single solution may be sufficient. Other times, a combination of two or more technologies is appropriate to meet all defined use cases.

Introducing AHEAD’s Software-Defined Networking Strategy and Roadmap Service

As Delivery Manager for AHEAD’s team of network architects and engineers, I work with many organizations who are struggling to identify their use cases for SDN and navigate competing technologies and messaging in the marketplace. That’s why I am excited to introduce AHEAD’s newest service offering: Software-Defined Networking Strategy and Roadmap. This service is designed for organizations looking to understand how to transform their data center with SDN. We work with you to:

    • Understand the SDN technology and marketplace
    • Identify your use cases and service level requirements for SDN
    • Rationalize and recommend a set of SDN technologies capable of delivering your desired state
  • Understand the organizational changes to resources and processes required to enable and sustain the SDN transformation

“Increasingly, my team is fielding questions about how and when to deploy SDN technologies,” says Brett Foy, General Manager of Data Center and Mobility at AHEAD. “However, it is clear that competing messaging around SDN solutions like ACI and NSX has caused most organizations to pause and take a wait-and-see approach. Marketplace confusion and a lack of defined use cases are the primary reasons we see organizations fail to develop a clear strategy for adopting SDN. We developed the SDN Strategy and Roadmap service to help clients overcome these obstacles and accelerate data center transformation,” continues Foy.

The Software-Defined Network Strategy and Roadmap service leverages the AHEAD Innovation Framework to help clients quickly rationalize use cases and build consensus on the desired state. The outcome is a strategy for SDN (data center and WAN) developed with involvement from key organizational stakeholders and a roadmap that represents next steps and technology adoption plans.

Included in this Service

current_state_assesment.pngCurrent State Analysis: We validate your current state as input for determining service level and integration requirements of the desired state SDN environment.

    • Network
    • Virtualization
    • Load balancing
    • Automation
    • Cloud strategy
    • Security and compliance requirements
  • Monitoring and tools

Use_Case_Definitions.pngUse Case Mapping: We help you identify your SDN use cases, map applications to use cases, and establish service level requirements for each.

    • Automation
    • Centralized management and orchestration
    • Microsegmentation / security
    • Networking design and development in hybrid / public cloud
    • Virtual desktops
  • Policy and process

Architecture_Alternatives.pngSDN Architecture and Reference Organization Structure: We help you understand the SDN technology and marketplace; map technology alternatives to your use cases; and provide recommendations for the desired state SDN architecture, as well as skillsets and processes required to enable and sustain the SDN transformation.

Financial_Alternatives.pngProcurement and Implementation Estimates: We provide you with estimates for the hardware, software, and resource costs associated with executing the recommending SDN strategy, leveraging existing investments wherever possible.


Multi-year Roadmap: We prioritize your use cases and map and sequence key initiatives for executing the SDN strategy in a phased approach.

If you’re interested in learning more about AHEAD’s Software-Defined Networking Strategy and Roadmap service or other network services we offer, feel free to email me at or register now to attend Looking AHEAD 2016 where you can connect with me and other experts about this service. 

Looking AHEAD 2016