Why Logicalis Adopted A Leadership Stance On SDN

For years, forward-thinking solution providers have pointed to the need for IT departments and business division heads to work more collaboratively on defining technology requirements for their customers. The adoption of cloud services – many of which are provisioned without the explicit knowledge of the IT team, making new demands on network infrastructure and data centers – has only made the need for these conversations more urgent.
That reality led Logicalis – ranked No. 26 on the 2014 CRN Solution Provider 500 list -- to create a multi-disciplined team last October made up of more than 100 service and technical specialists, dedicated to helping businesses create their Software Defined Network (SDN) strategies. Their skills lie in identifying ways in which existing network and data center infrastructure should be adapted to optimize Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) investments.
"SDNs herald the beginning of a new model of IT service provisioning, transforming the time frame of deploying new services from days or hours to now minutes and then seconds," said Chris Barnard, associate vice president at IDC, in a statement. "SDN is clearly in its early stages, but its long-term impacts are already starting to emerge in service providers that build and operate large networks and cloud environments, and also in organizations that develop applications where the network is the critical component of service success or failure."
What exactly does that mean? At the most basic level, Logicalis says the model needs to allow for more direct interactions and interfaces between applications and individual network elements such as routers, switches and firewalls to help shape traffic needs. In that sense, the conversation will be much more specific than those currently made possible by application programming interfaces (APIs) focused only on MAC, IP address, or quality of service metrics.
A survey released by Logicalis in late May – and based on its own qualitative research – suggests that the internal IT teams of most businesses are ill-equipped to manage this transition, because it requires not just technical skills but also a deeper knowledge of business priorities and how they related to desired service levels.
"It doesn't matter where the service comes from. IT will, in turn, need to think more like a service provider," said Mike Johnson, director of communication and collaboration solutions for Logicalis. "They will need to consider the specifications from the business point of view. To enable this, you need to know what the line of business is doing."
From a solution provider's view, this requires the technical team to understand methodologies around IT service management: strategies for guiding update procedures, service levels, sourcing and procurement, and monitoring. "You're looking for someone who can embrace orchestration and automation," Johnson said.
Not coincidentally, Cisco has made its Business Value practioner specialist certification a future requirement for Gold level partners, starting in April 2016. "You need to make sure your people can speak to the business value of the solution," Johnson said.
For a quick primer on the SDN landscape, check out this CRN slide show: