What questions will we answer in this blog?
1. What is Software Defined Networking?
2. What is Software Defined Access (SDA)?
3. What is the difference between SDN and SDA?
4. Why should I care about SDN/SDA in healthcare?
5. What are the benefits of SDN/SDA
Who is the document for?
This document is intended for business and technology leaders and is focused on the business value proposition as opposed to a deep technical dive.
What is Software Defined Networking (SDN)?
Software-defined networking (SDN), also known as software defined access (SDA), is the separation of the control and forwarding plane. Okay, so what does this mean in plain English?
Basically it means that SDN aims to centralise the network intelligence. This translates to the following business benefits
1. Increased security and compliance.
2. Increased efficiency
3. Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO)
There are various benefits that SDN achieves for your business, which we will explore shortly, firstly lets explain what SDN means to the network;
Because the control and forwarding functions are decoupled, the network control is completely programmable. Therefore, as the control plane is generally not proprietary, the network team can manage, security, configure and update the infrastructure programmatically.
Separating the control and forwarding functions means administrators, network traffic flow quickly and easily, meaning that the infrastructure can adapt to the business’ changing need.
Traditional networks required network management systems to achieve central management. SDN uses a software based SDN controller that has a global view of the network. Applications that use the network can see the network as a single logical switch.
So why should the healthcare industry care (or any other fast moving industry for that matter)?
What are the 5 benefits of SDN / SDA to healthcare
Let us now explore what SDN/SDA brings to the healthcare industry.
Technology in the healthcare space moves at a significant pace. The explosion of IOT (Internet of Things) devices is just one element. Imagine you build a relatively fixed (traditional network) now but two years down the line, a new technology is introduced. With this comes security concerns. Wouldn’t it be nice if you’re able to adapt the network to securely introduce the new technology without weeks of planning and changes. Due to programmable nature of SDN, this is possible, meaning changes can be deployed at large scale through code.
Also due to the programmable nature, your team can rely on good programming practices to integrate change control in code.
Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
As per the previous point, the programmable nature of SDN/SDA, change control can be achieved using well known coding practices and tools like Github. This streamlines the entire process and reduces waste. This also means, changes can be rolled out rapidly as required instead of manually configuring each port on a switch.
Automation is another driver for SDN, discussing the use cases for automation is beyond the scope of this document. However, SDXCentral has a great article on SDN Automation use cases.
Traditional networks require “external” network management tools to gain full visibility of the network, which naturally, generally has a cost associated with it; either in monetary or effort (or both). With SDA, the central controller has a full view of the network. This enhanced visibility also has two additional advantages.
- Reduced downtime: Due to the visibility, it is easier to identify and resolve issues.
- Increased security: Again because of the increased visibility, it’s easier to baseline the network and identify anomalies.
Some research indicates that hospitals have an expected lifetime of 5 – 10 years for their network and security. which is a lifetime for technology. Because SDN offers additional flexibility, in terms of how the network behaves, it is more likely to withstand changes required.
Micro-segmentation plays a key role in improving overall security. With traditional networks, this can become a real challenge to manage over time, especially if it’s not been architected beforehand. Micro-segmentation is super easy to achieve with SDN. This becomes more critical because of the spread of IoT devices and BYOD policies.
As discussed previously, visibility is key to improving security. The IT and security team should know when unknown devices are attempting or worse yet, already connected to the network.
What if a new virus is found? A lot of businesses are unable to respond quickly when new configuration needs to be rolled out in response to a new threat. Due to the programmable nature of SDN, this can easily be managed and response time significantly reduced.
Base-lining and identifying anomalies are another critical tools in security. If we don’t know what “normal” behaviour is, it’s very difficult to identify anomalies like network spikes.
Keywords and phrases
Software defined networking
Software defined access
Software defined architecture
Software defined networking
5 Reasons Healthcare should consider Software Defined Networking (SDN)