Why software-defined solutions are key to a cloud-ready architecture
If the future is in the cloud, then software-defined solutions are your airplane.

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With ongoing work-from-home (WFH) initiatives, the proliferation of software as a service (SaaS), and an influx of mobile apps and internet of things (IoT) devices, it’s easy to see why cloud computing is considered the “new normal” for today’s businesses.

Yet, while companies are eager to take advantage of the cloud, implementing a successful cloud strategy can be challenging. Application and data center migrations, security and disaster recovery (DR), and app portfolio management are just some of the concerns you have to address. But all of them are easier to achieve if you have a cloud-ready architecture in place.

Here’s why adopting a software-defined (SD) and application-aware network and data center is vital for your cloud journey.

Why choose a software-defined environment

If you’re one of the many businesses that hosts its applications across private data centers and private and public clouds, future proofing your network and data center operations is a must. An SD environment helps you get there.

With a software-defined data center (SDDC), infrastructure is virtualized and delivered as a service. Unlike traditional data centers, the management of an SDDC is automated by software, while your hardware is configured through upper-level software systems. This next-generation data center enables public and private clouds to work effortlessly together in a hybrid environment with traditional systems.

At the same time, as businesses collect high volumes of data and push out more applications to their users, they need a network that is flexible and scalable. This is challenging if your network is device centric.

Software-defined networking (SDN) solutions shift network control to software. This eliminates the need to configure a network device by device and simplifies the process of connecting your users with applications and data, regardless of where they reside.

3 benefits of software-defined solutions

SD solutions allow you to achieve the following:

1. Drive faster business innovation

SD solutions let you extend application-aware features and software across the network, the data center, and remote locations. You can put them on bare metal servers. You can even have them in virtual machines.

With these features, you no longer have to backhaul to the data center for information. Your information could be anywhere in the network; it could exist across multiple sites, VPNs, or the cloud.

This will enable you to capture more data faster, more easily deliver services, and deploy improvements when needed. All of this can free up your employees, allowing them to focus on ways to drive your business forward.

2. Automate operations to lower costs and complexity

SD solutions simplify operations across multi-cloud environments, allowing for easier automation of network and data center policies and provisions.

For example, you can create a centralized policy and push it out to other applications and hardware so it’s consistent across your environment.

By doing so, you can more quickly scale and optimize applications, saving time, effort, and money.

3. Invoke end-to-end security compliance measures to reduce risk as you grow

In old network designs, applications competed against each other for bandwidth. That’s not the case in an SD environment.

SD solutions let you segment data and applications away from each other, making your architecture innately more secure. Also, since SD offers a single point of control you can layer security in ways you couldn’t with traditional architecture, automating security processes without having to buy additional pricey hardware.

So, as your business grows, you can push out more compliance procedures across the network, creating a more secure environment that scales with you.

SD solutions in action

We can talk about the benefits of SD solutions in theory, but sometimes it’s better to see them in action.

We recently worked with a county that was struggling to provide residents the online services they required. Residents used the county’s website to learn about trash collection and snow removal, discover community events, and access how-to guides like “How to pay your taxes online.”

The county’s old router/switch environment caused high latency and made it difficult to push out new applications to end users. It certainly wasn’t cloud ready.

The county needed to upgrade its environment and add more automation. With Cisco’s help, we went to work. We redesigned the data center into a SD, application-centric infrastructure. We implemented new hardware and software, completed several rounds of testing, and delivered new applications, moving some to the cloud and keeping some on premises.

The results were immediate. Applications worked better, and the website was more responsive. The county could now quickly roll out new services, messages, and applications to residents that they could access without delay.

How to find the best SDN for you

When determining which SD solution is right for your business, it’s important to take a hard look at your existing applications.

Document how you currently push applications through the network and data center into the hands of end users, and identify any inefficiencies. Determine which solutions will best optimize this process moving forward.

Identify applications you plan to consume in the future. Does your current infrastructure accommodate them? If not, figure out what infrastructure you’ll need in place before you deploy them.

But applications are just the start. Look at things like data center migrations, security, and disaster recovery. What constraints and bottlenecks do you currently have? What steps can you take to alleviate them?

SD solutions can be deployed in several ways. The question is, how can you create ease of operation across the board? Understanding where you are today, and where you plan to take things in the future, is a good place to start.

Crafting a cloud strategy

By 2021, 75% of enterprise organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud or hybrid IT strategy. However, to ensure that strategy is successful, you must implement a cloud-ready architecture.

By adopting SD solutions, you can drive faster business innovation, automate operations to lower costs and complexity, and invoke end-to-end security compliance measures.

Get in touch with us for more information about modernizing your infrastructure.