What is Software Defined Networking?

Published on 29/11/2019 in Inspire

What is Software Defined Networking?

Network management has become very complex, particularly as the structure has to be perfectly adapted to the user and not vice versa. Tania Defraine and Gaëtan Willems talk about ‘Software Defined Networking’ (SDx).

Digitalization and the development of users’ expectations have resulted in a certain complexity in the dynamic management of networks. This trend is now clear and is prompting companies to bring in specialists to guide them and manage the transformation of their IT infrastructure, commonly known as knowledge and managed service,” says Gaëtan Willems, Head of Infrastructure, Workplace and Applications at Proximus.

“Applicative transformation leads to the implementation of a private and public hybrid cloud environment focused on the user. In order to manage this transformation, network management has to be simplified so as to ensure total agility and follow the digital transformation movement initiated by the company,” adds Tania Defraine, Head of Enterprise Fixed Data.

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A win for users

IT and telecom have become inextricably linked. Companies are starting or continuing their digital transformation and are facing the talent war on the one hand and new demands from end-users on the other.

“In the past, users had to adapt to the constraints of networks. Today, it’s the networks that have to adapt to users so that wherever they are, they can gain applicative access in real time. But, of course, the business processes have to be able to keep up as well, which calls for boosted responsiveness. The solution is to let the software take the upper hand over the hardware. This is the Software Defined Network (SDx),” Gaëtan explains.

Real-time responsiveness

The SDx approach responds to a reality in which all devices have to be taken into consideration. The response dynamic expected by the different user profiles connected to the network is essential. “We always start by analyzing and segmenting the customer’s needs, step by step. The main question is how can end-to-end service be guaranteed while prioritizing the applications that are most critical for the company,” Tania explains.

“We are currently witnessing an explosion in the number of devices and the number of applications to be taken into account. Each new element integrated into the network may present an additional risk in terms of cybersecurity. The ‘Software Defined Anything’ approach makes it possible, thanks to various tools such as an integral dashboard, to obtain realtime responsiveness for software and reporting. Responsiveness thus becomes proactivity, or even creativity,” Gaëtan adds.

Today, the network adapts to the user.

Gaëtan Willems, Head of Infrastructure, Workplace and Applications at Proximus


Head and body

Tania illustrates the SDx by describing the network as comprising a body (the tool) and a head (the intelligence). “Making a distinction between the two speeds up processes and increases flexibility. This is precisely the effect obtained by a Software Defined Network.” “I can confirm that because, until now, the hard- and software operated together. The number of endpoints multiplied, resulting in a fairly weighty repetition of all the tasks carried out on the network. Today, the software manages and the hardware executes,” Gaëtan stresses.


Networks differ by their very nature. Gaëtan points out that the SDx approach takes account of routing in SD-WAN or SD-LAN mode. “Company needs are contingent on a company’s size, the company’s sector, its segmentation and its level of service. Stability and continuity are fundamental. We draw up the balance of each company to ensure a dynamic continuity.” Tania stresses the three ingredients in the recipe: the digital transformation process, the costs (staff, equipment, etc.), and the need for agility in terms of decisions and implementation. “This is what determines the technological choices and the solution.”

Enriching a digital transition with an SDx means freeing the company from complex solutions and giving priority to mobility.

Tania Defraine, Head of Enterprise Fixed Data at Proximus


It’s not magic

As with every transformation, caution is essential. “It’s important to ask the right questions in order to gain a broad view of the journey. The implementation will take place in several phases, so that each decision is taken while bearing the next one in mind. But given the speed of change, guidance is crucial,” Gaëtan warns.

For Tania, the key term is ‘customer journey’: “Automation and digitalization are speeding up, but it’s not magic. It’s important to establish a transition plan that meets users’ needs.” And what about the short-term cost? “This is not inexpensive technology, but the real reward will come in the medium term in the TCO of users and the optimization of the results of their customers’ results,” Gaëtan argues.

User, user, user

Our two Proximus experts are adamant: this layer of software management to master the networks is a boost for platform responsiveness and the user experience. “Imagine: my applications are prioritized, their installation is sped up and I finally get the expected digital experience. All good for attracting new talent,” says Gaëtan enthusiastically.

“Enriching your digital transition with an SDx means freeing the company from complex, static solutions and giving priority to mobility and security.” And Tania specifies: “Within companies, people will increasingly have a software-minded vision. For this transition, we will support each company, because it is different for each one of them.”

Managing more devices, more users and more user profiles. Read why insurer P&V Group switched to Hyperconnected Infrastructure.

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CIOs are no longer talking technology

For Gaëtan, the arrival of the software-defined network is linked to the new role of CIOs: “Their responsibility is becoming less and less technical. They no longer talk only about technology, but about the goals and needs of the business. The balance between business and technology is important, of course, and in my view, we will get the most out of this technology when the impetus comes from business and IT.”

Tania Defraine is Head of Enterprise Fixed Data at Proximus. She graduated in commercial sciences and her background as an economist and a tax specialist have inspired her career at Proximus for over 20 years.

Gaëtan Willems is Head of Infrastructure, Workplace and Applications at Proximus. Having trained as an engineer, he assists companies with their transformation program.


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