Re-defining your network

Software defined networking creates a new approach to delivering business agility, according to regional SDN experts

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Re-defining your network
By  Georgina Enzer Published  June 18, 2013

Software defined networking creates a new approach to delivering business agility, according to regional SDN experts.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is creating a lot of excitement in data centres, but the currently available technology is still relatively immature. Software Defined Networks are designed to speed up the process of provisioning network connections by automating it instead of network managers having to configure it manually.

The emergence of virtualisation has driven the need for better efficiency and allows IT managers to create and configure virtual machines remotely and configure firewall rules or network addresses in response. SDN allows network administrators to have programmable central control of network traffic without requiring physical access to the network›s hardware devices.

What is an SDN?

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a powerful new network paradigm designed to address the issues seen in traditional networks. The SDN concept proposes the disaggregation of traditional vertically integrated networking stacks to improve network feature velocity or customise network operation for specialised environments. It entails separating data and control planes, and making the control plane an open software product.

The big buzz words in the industry at the moment are virtualisation and consolidation and from a virtualisation point of view there has been a surge in server virtualisation – decoupling the server from the hardware which gives many of benefits, and there has been an increase in things like desktop virtualisation and virtual desktop infrastructure, which means that an IT software function can keep control of all the applications, storage etc and push out a unintelligent desktop to the user.

“Software Defined Networking is a tool to enable network virtualisation in the same way as businesses are already benefitting from those other elements of vitualisation,” explains Brent Lees, senior product marketing manager, Europe, Middle East & Africa at application performance expert Riverbed.

Software Defined Networking comprises multiple technologies that open the planes of the network, enabling them to participate in broader orchestration frameworks to solve cloud-related challenges.

“The OpenFlow protocol is one of the leading SDN-enabling technologies and is gaining increased support from the world›s most demanding network operators. OpenFlow enables programmatic control of network infrastructures and rapid network service development and deployment. This allows SDN to centrally manage and monitor the network across not just routers and switches from a single vendor but across any networking hardware that implements this standardised SDN protocol. For network administrators this enables them to create efficient virtual networks that are independent from physical networks,” says Samer Ismair, system engineer Middle East & North Africa at network solutions expert Brocade.

With SDN, agile and secure virtual networks can be easily created, programmatically provisioned, attached to workloads, and placed, moved or scaled on demand — even across clusters, pods, and metro-clusters.

“Tenants or customers utilising the software-defined data centre can have their own virtual data centre with an isolated collection of all the compute, storage, networking, and security resources that they are used to. Furthermore, this virtual data centre can grow and shrink to efficiently utilise physical resources. This is what the software-defined data centre is all about, and it is the architecture for the cloud,” states Rob Jenkins, director advisory services, EMEA at virtualisation specialists VMware.

Traditional networking is one of the greatest barriers to data centre flexibility. Network operations still require manual, device-by-device provisioning and virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) are a challenge to manage, with numerous individual devices tied together by intricate and often vendor-specific interfaces. SDN bypasses this complexity.

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