What is Software Defined Networking (SDN) and how does it work?

Why is everyone, or at least IT Network professionals, going crazy for Software Defined Networking (SDN)?

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is cutting-edge innovative approach to traditional and legacy networking technologies wherein it facilitates network infrastructure management to have a more centralized approach. This is possible through the use of SDN technologies allowing the programmatically of network configuration and tools to improve network incident resolution, monitoring and analytics. Software-defined networking aims to fill the gap between how we need our network to perform and the tedious configuration of our particular equipment to achieve our goals. Although having a central intelligence on the whole network infrastructure does have potential repercussions especially in terms of security, implementation, scalability and potential for software bugs.

 

How does utilizing Software Defined Networking (SDN) help companies?

Resolve issues rapidly

Imagine losing connectivity during business hours, It definitely becomes a source of hair pulling stress and agitation. You call the network engineer to fix the connectivity issues. Now it takes him, at least 1 hour to route the traffic pipe to another link and, by this time, especially if you are in finance, airlines, e-commerce or other related industries, you would have already lost valuable business data and this will reflect negatively on your reputation. Consequently, this will have a financial effect and will result to bad reviews from client. Now with SDN, the controller automatically finds the point of failure and configures the affected network devices to take a more stable and optimized network traffic link in just a matter of minutes.

Please note: Although it can be argued that, network engineers can configure network protocols allowing redundant and highly available, I am illustrating a scenario in which SDN can help tremendously to regenerate the network infrastructure.

Centralized approach for more simple management and setup

In a traditional setup, you need to have separate appliances and devices for your routers, switches, load balancers, WAN optimizers, and firewalls. By using SDN technologies, the controller automatically pushes rules and policies which disassociates the forwarding process of network packets (data plane) from the routing process (control plane) thereby allowing the routers and switches to perform the function of devices such as load balancers, WAN optimizers, and firewalls. In addition, you save yourself from the hassle of remembering 20+ login credentials on different devices whenever you need to do some changes. Simply login to the SDN console and, voila! — You again access to all the network devices in your company.

Long awaited network virtualization

Servers are already at the top of a cloud compared to networking in terms of technologies and devices, or at least hosted on Cloud Services Provider (think Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure), so the introduction of SDN in the IT market has been well received, so much so that, Networking Industry experts Cisco, Juniper, and others have invested and developed their own set of SDN certifications and devices to compete. Integrating virtualization and SDN results to a more rapid deployment and easier setup, allowing your IT department to focus more on providing innovation and concentrate on work output rather than having to perform daily maintenance and using valuable work hours on resolving repeated incidents and outages.

More bang for your bucks or choose not to spend at all

SDN software is much cheaper than the traditional and legacy devices it aims to replace. A lot of available SDN solutions are already available in the market provided by Cisco, Juniper, VMware and other vultures competing for the fast-growing SDN industry which companies can leverage. Better yet, there are in fact other SDN alternatives that can be implemented as easily that are free and open sourced software. Adding to this, having reduced physical network devices and integrating them to SDN results to less cost on equipments, as well as not needing to buy specialized hardware with vendor locked proprietary protocols that will become redundant due to SDN.

 

Conclusion

SDN is a welcome boon to companies looking to revolutionize and innovate their IT operations. It allows the network intelligence to automatically deduce and resolve issues, enables unified console, assimilation to the cloud and cost-effective option. Having said that, It still has drawbacks  in terms of security, implementation, scalability and potential for software bugs but in the long runthe advantages far outweighs these should should you choose to invest in this SDN technology.

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