What is SDN?

SDN, SD WAN, NFV, SBCs …... What does it all mean?!?

With recent exponential growth of network demand with the rise of multimedia on demand content, cloud computing and increasing mobile usage - businesses have been facing increasing pressure to reduce costs & maintain capacity to keep in line with customer demand. In this guide, we aim to break down the compontents, advantages & industry implications of moving to SDN.

What is SDN?

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a network architecture approach that enables an organisation’s network to be centrally controlled using software applications. This means that operators can manage their networks holistically, regardless of underlying network technology

By opening up traditionally closed network platforms and implementing a common SDN control layer, operators can manage the entire network and its devices consistently, regardless of the complexity of the underlying network technology.

This process is a step away from traditional network architecture, in which individual network devices make traffic decisions based on their own configuration routing tables.

What advantages does SDN bring?

SDN addresses common pain points for modern business networks, including quality of service and security, and meets requirements of today’s decentralised, geographically spread, cloud-centric networks.

It is critical for decision-makers in the business to understand the exact requirements of the organisation and to choose, deploy and correctly use the most appropriate service.

Gain more control, deeper insight & increase the agility of your network, and reduce time to change

Ensure evolution with changes in traffic topology, including increased traffic flowing to SaaS cloud via the public Internet

Scale bandwidth cost-effectively, especially in areas with limited competition amongst incumbent network service providers

Monitor network deployment, near real-time performance, configuration, congestion, traffic-steering policies, applications involved and more.

What is SD WAN?

SD WAN is a software-based solution that simplifies management of a businesses’ wide area network to optimise performance and flexibility while keeping operational costs low.

Traditionally, enterprises relied upon (multiprotocol label switching) networks for their WAN. However, MPLS generally provides limited bandwidth at a much greater cost than public broadband and cannot be easily adapted to changing traffic requirements. It is therefore both expensive and slow to expand an MPLS network. Breaking out application traffic to public internet to lower costs and expand more quickly brings challenges of its own, as it provides neither a private connection or service guarantees, making it unreliable and sensitive business traffic vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

SD WAN provides the solution - it interfaces with multiple WAN and internet circuits, monitoring performance and speed to dynamically route traffic across the best available circuit. SD WAN is flexible, able to identify and map thousands of applications to traffic queues to follow set application prioritisation policies. This way, businesses can choose to route traffic from different applications over different links, according to specific needs - for instance, sending sensitive data from internal applications over secure MPLS links and web browser activity over public internet.


How to choose the right SD WAN deployment

What is driving the next era of cloud? We surveyed 400 IT decision makers and C-level executives, across Europe and Asia. Get all the insights in this exclusive research.

Network Function Virtualistion & uCPE

Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) is a new way to add, distribute and run networking services. It takes away Physical Network Functions from their dedicated hardware devices, so that they can run on standardised hardware - think as if they were apps on the Google Play Store, all made by different people, running on the same device. These functions, such as the previously mentioned firewall, or intrusion prevention, become Virtual Network Functions (VNFs)

uCPE uses these Virtual Network Functions to consolidate loads of specialised devices into one general purpose box. It’s the next step in the evolution of the smart network, and it puts way more control than ever before in the hands of the customer.

uCPE Smartphone Moment 2

Customer Premises Equipment is having its smartphone moment

The introduction of uCPE has done for network functions what smartphones did for us in our day to day lives. It works in roughly three steps:

Hardware services get converted into software applications (VNFs) – So similar to having an app for a streaming music, we have a VNF for a Firewall.

These are a part of a vendor-agnostic platform where the apps can run, which is known as the Virtualisation layer (much like the Google Play Store).

This enables these apps to run on the Virtualisation layer simultaneously – similar to Spotify running in the background while you order an Uber on the same phone, a business can run their chosen router and smartphone platforms in a virtualised manner, on shared hardware.


The evolving path to cloud adoption

To find out more about uCPE and Network Function Virtualisation, keep reading here: https://www.colt.net/resources/what-is-ucpe/ 

True, on-demand networking

A prerequisite of a digital transformation strategy is to deliver speed to market. Time is a commercially critical commodity, and a self-service provisioning portal for deploying network services is central to achieving that goal. On demand and in near real time is the gold standard for network provision.

The ability for Enterprises to select data port locations, choose the required bandwidth over the circuit and have the service up and running in minutes rather than weeks is now available.

The portal thus becomes the network management hub; adding, changing and upgrading circuits and port locations as the business needs changes. Of course management controls and measurements are built in. For example, an activity history log and full integration to the supplier billing engine for accurate invoices are just the required essentials in the portal feature list. Instead of the time taken to specify requirements and then waiting to obtain quotations for different service options from your supplier the connection, rental and usage charges are displayed on the portal screen. This means, for example you can immediately see the implications of upgrading a circuit between say Berlin, London or Paris from 1Gbps to 10Gbps.

And say you need to upgrade that circuit bandwidth for just a month in anticipation of a short-term business need. Now, instead of planning weeks ahead, ordering the upgrade and then being landed with an inflexible, longer term than you need contract, you go to the portal the day you need the uplift and select your bandwidth requirement and press the button. Minutes later you have what you want, know your cost and know you can switch it off when it is no longer required without penalty. That is what on demand means. Why would you settle for anything less?

Solution Hub

Connecting your network on-demand

Read more in our On Demand Hub and find our available locations, pricing & available services, alongside an in-depth resources hub available without registration.

Choosing the right deployment model

The most critical step in choosing the right WAN solution for any given enterprise is understanding at a high level how they want to manage their SD WAN. What kind of support is needed from the supplier, given the IT resources available within the business?

For large corporations, a ‘DIY’ approach to deploying and managing an SD WAN solution may be considered. The DIY model involves businesses buying SD WAN technology directly from the vendor and deploying and managing their solution in-house, giving them full control and visibility of the network.

However, building a complete SD WAN architecture across multiple locations and network access types with multiple vendors is a complex task and it is essential that a business have an IT department with the required skills and experience – including dealing with tens of different local loop providers and keeping the network up and running 24x7.

For most businesses, this option isn’t suitable. Instead, they benefit from adopting a managed service with an experienced partner who can help seamlessly integrate the new SD WAN service with their existing infrastructure and provide support throughout the service lifecycle.

Working with a managed service provider means that firms don’t need to invest the time, money and effort to source and retain the required skills, nor build up an internal organisation to offer 24/7 support.

By adopting this model, they would also benefit from the cost efficiencies of a large provider network, who can leverage existing relationships with third-party access providers to ensure customers receive the best possible service, end-to-end.

Overall, choosing a managed service ensures fast deployment, network performance guarantees, and assurance that the business-critical application requirements of the company are met by the right access options on the underlying network.

Colt's SD WAN solution

Colt’s award-winning SD WAN platform combines the breadth and depth of the Colt IQ Network, with application-based traffic steering, real-time service changes via an interactive customer portal, virtual routing and firewall services enabled via Network Function Virtualisation (NFV).

Given the criticality of robust security at both the network edge and core, Colt provides an integrated firewall with SD WAN CPE at the network edge. It enables secure local internet breakout from all branch sites and protects them from DDoS attacks. Colt’s SD WAN portal also provides customers with the ability to create firewall policies and rules.

Solutions are delivered via universal CPEs, now available on a self-install basis for faster delivery. Colt provides a range of network access options including delivery over Colt’s owned fibre network, third party internet and 3G/4G radio access at remote sites, with customers able to prioritise traffic using advanced routing techniques.

This year, Colt has also launched SD WAN Multi-Cloud – a feature which enables direct, reliable and secure connectivity towards multiple clouds via a transit gateway. Colt SD WAN Multi-Cloud utilises the extensive, SDN-optimised Colt IQ Network to provide high performance, inexpensive, and secure cloud connectivity directly into the cloud service provider.

For more information on Colt SD WAN, visit this page.


Planning for an SD WAN future

Download our whitepaper to discover how the market for SD WAN services is evolving, the challenges that lie ahead and how SD WAN can play a part, with a checklist for enterprises looking to bring SD WAN into their 2022 strategy.

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SDN and the implications to the Capital Markets industry

Accompanying the trend towards private cloud hosted trading platforms and services is the emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN). SDN importantly delivers a reliable, resilient, low-latency connection to key cloud-hosted Capital Market participants.

The combination of cloud and the emergence of SDN has the potential to trigger a new connectivity arms race in the Capital Markets. Fast, stable and secure connectivity with concepts such as data modelling and standard APIs to the cloud will become all important. A legacy, manually configured network environment with services enabled in several days or even weeks will not survive. To augment high bandwidth, high performance optical services for their most critical locations, organisations want to manage and customise connectivity, functions and services accessible via their own networks.

They want to adjust the bandwidth available to them, or introduce new functions like extra cybersecurity or a firewall, from a single dashboard. A more agile, software-based network gives Capital Markets participants more control. They can dial up extra bandwidth and capacity to their network as and when they need it – for example, during peak trading time or when a major market-moving announcement is due, such as the latest non-farm payrolls. Conversely, they can reduce the bandwidth, at night for example, and use the network for order clearing. All without delay and without having to renegotiate their SLA with their service provider.

Rather than purchase a fixed amount of capacity to a particular location or venue for 12 months, Capital Market participants also want to take advantage of opportunities in a global market, and this requires a network that can facilitate on-demand connectivity to global trading venues and platforms. Inter-carrier SDN interconnection is a key pillar of Colt’s vision of SDN innovation. PoCs are also underway for the network intelligence aspects of Colt SDN, exploring AI-based solutions to enhance network ops and customer experience through the whole service lifecycle enabling a truly global ondemand financial network. Trading firms will move connectivity between different participants and providers according to their specific needs. Trading desks are shrinking, and this consolidation coincides with the increase in algorithmic trading, network automation, flexibility and reduced operational risk. The SDN model of agile, customisable connectivity is the direction that capital markets will follow. Both SDN and the cloud offer participants greater flexibility, more high-speed connectivity and improved ROI.

Participants will have a wider range of differently priced tiered services from their provider to choose from. They will be able to select their preferred service and its level of guaranteed latency, reliability and redundancy based on their trading objectives, or their budget. But technology advancements mean that today’s networks have reached their limit in latency vs cost terms. Alternative wireless technologies like microwave and millimetre wave offer ultra-low latency, however, their capacity and bandwidth is limited. Research and investment continues into other early stage connective technologies such as hollow fibre, which offers the ultra-low latency of wireless but the capacity of fibre.

With the Colt IQ Network expansion, customers can now benefit from high performance optical Wave services, but also overlay services with features such as application-based traffic steering, realtime service changes via an interactive customer portal, virtual routing (static and dynamic) and firewall services enabled via Network Function Virtualisation (NFV). NFV is important as features move from monolithic network nodes to increasingly being provided on standard compute devices (e.g. could apply to firewall applications, Network Address Translation etc). With the Capital Market community moving into proximity and colocation data centres, the requirement for multiple WAN networks for connectivity to services is replaced by cross connects within the same facilities. An SDN-NFV enabled platform underpinning Colt’s On Demand network enables a firm's multi co-location strategy interconnected via a high bandwidth SDN/NFV enabled global network.

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Connecting financial markets

When every millisecond counts, we are a trusted partner to meet your most latency-sensitive requirements.