Network Transformation with SDN and 5G



Colleagues working

A key enabling technology for the next stage of enterprise data networking is Software Defined Networking (SDN). Standards-based and vendor-neutral, this emerging open architecture is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable.

As recent global disruptions to business operations have made abundantly clear, enterprise customers need easier-to-configure, -provision, and -maintain enterprise networks (WAN, LAN, and emerging edge networks).

Cataloging the pain points

Existing enterprise data networks share a number of challenges:

  • Lack of automated manageability: Enterprises face skyrocketing costs around operating their traditional networks, which take longer to provision and troubleshoot. The well-documented shortage of network engineers magnifies this problem.
  • Security. Proprietary hardware/software solutions, coupled with too many legacy manual processes, makes managing security laborious, complicated, and error-prone. Again, a skills shortage for cybersecurity talent exacerbates this problem.

SDN can resolve many of these difficulties. Parallel to the cloud transformation of computing and storage a decade ago, SDN provides a software layer above legacy network hardware and software. SDN promises to deliver a slew of “core-to-edge” applications and services.

Operating at the edge

A crucial part of this network transformation will occur at the network’s edge. According to an IDC report conducted on behalf of Intel, 77% of U.S. organizations say that edge is a strategic investment for their business.

“We’re really at an inflection point,” said Nikos Anerousis, DE & global practice leader, network and edge of Kyndryl Advisory & Implementation Services. Specifically, Anerousis points to private 5G wireless as the transport mechanism for applications and services that would be difficult or impossible with traditional wireless networks.

IDC’s Worldwide Private LTE/5G Infrastructure Forecast estimated revenue attributable to the sales of private LTE/5G infrastructure will grow from $945 million in 2019 to an estimated $5.7 billion in 2024, with a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.4%.

“For demanding applications where you need real-time control, like computer vision controlling robots on the factory floor, private 5G is incredibly well-suited,” Anerousis said. Compared to its predecessor, 4G, with latencies of 30ms to 70ms, 5G networks have been creeping into single-digits. This sub-10ms latency will be critical for achieving Industry 4.0 goals, he said.

Another benefit of private 5G is its ability to cover large, kilometer-wide campuses or industrial plants using just a handful of radios instead of a mass of Wi-Fi access points, he notes.

For example, Kyndryl recently implemented an enterprise private 5G network for a leading industrial firm in the U.S. The new network enabled remote audio/video collaboration, real-time smart procedures, on-site personnel tracking, and vehicle telematics.

“The way a communication service provider manages its 5G network is very different from how you want to manage them in the enterprise,” Anerousis said, referring to public 5G. He said enterprises will want their private 5G network to look “more like a Wi-Fi network.”

Already a number of vendors already have 5G cloud-based management tools that allow users to finely tune how devices and users are enabled and registered on private 5G networks, as well as how the network is partitioned, segmented, and secured. One part of 5G security is simple to understand: “Unlike Wi-Fi, it’s a closed network, and you need a SIM card to join,” says Anerousis. “If you need the physical security that the SIM card provides, that’s the right way to go.”

Still, Anerousis says both options – public carrier 5G and private enterprise 5G – will be important in the future, depending on the use-case.

Kyndryl can help enterprises sort through all the options for wireless technology at the network’s edge (carrier 5G, private 5G or Wi-Fi 6), as well as how to integrate them into an SDN.

To learn more about Kyndryl’s services, click here.