A software defined network requires reinventing IT devops

It’s common for a newly released application to have a few bugs in it. Customers may grumble, and IT service requests may increase, but life goes on and people will figure out how to work around the issues. The same cannot be said for a network software upgrade. If the network goes down, everything grinds to a halt, and service to employees and customers ceases.

In the old hardware network model, an operator relied on three to four vendors to run annual or semiannual upgrades, and even that process put the network’s resiliency at risk.  As networks transition to a software model, they are supported by a myriad of best-of-breed partners and a more diverse ecosystem, increasing the frequency of updates and therefore the degree of network vulnerability. In addition, the technology implemented is less mature, resulting in greater network exposure to errors and risk.

A network going down is extremely costly not only because of the cessation of connectivity and work; the reputational cost to companies can be long lasting and sometimes irreversible. The traditional upgrade processes simply will not scale in the new world of software defined networks (SDN) and virtual network functionality (VNF).

To avoid this risk, network management must develop software engineering lifecycle management, the type of discipline found in software IT devops. However, because of the critical nature of network resiliency combined with the increase in complexity and decrease in technological maturity, the processes must be more detailed, more precise, more coordinated and more test-heavy than traditional devops. It needs to be devops on steroids.

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