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Susan Fogarty
Susan Fogarty
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7 Essentials Of Software-Defined Networking

What is SDN? If you have to ask, you're not alone. We boil SDN architectures down to the essentials, including OpenFlow, SDN APIs, and overlay networks.
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Software-defined networking (SDN) may be the technology du jour, but as of yet it is largely conceptual -- and those concepts vary depending on the approach. Vendors talk about their own SDN architectures, OpenFlow, SDN APIs, and overlay networks either as if they are interchangeable, or without ever mentioning the other options. It's no wonder that SDN leaves many folks in IT with no grasp of the "definition" at all.

The basis of SDN is virtualization, which in its most simplistic form allows software to run separately from the underlying hardware. Virtualization has made cloud computing possible and now allows datacenters to dynamically provision IT resources exactly where they are needed, on the fly. To keep up with the speed and complexity of all this split-second processing, the network must also adapt, becoming more flexible and automatically responsive. We can apply the idea of virtualization to the network as well, separating the function of traffic control from the network hardware, resulting in SDN.

Whether out of a need for self-preservation or a desire to improve technology, the networking industry is embracing SDN with surprising enthusiasm. Legacy networks have serious limitations and old methods that simply will no longer work. As virtualization, cloud, and mobility create more complex environments, networks must be able to adapt in terms of security, scalability, and manageability. Most enterprise networks, however, rely on fixed boxes and appliances requiring a great deal of manual administration. Changing or expanding these networks for new capabilities, applications, or users requires reconfiguration that is time consuming and expensive.

Software-defined networks take a lesson from server virtualization and introduce an abstraction layer separating network intelligence and configuration from physical connections and hardware. In this way, SDN offers programmatic control over both physical and virtual network devices that can dynamically respond to changing network conditions using OpenFlow or some other programmable and controllable packet/flow processing protocol.

There are several approaches to SDN, but the most common components and concepts are covered in the following slides. Though the technology is very much in the midst of its development, vendors and industry organizations are working to make the technology open and flexible while adhering to existing Internet standards. At its core, SDN promises to enable network technology innovation and versatility while reducing complexity and administrative overhead.

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 9:35:50 AM
Great Slide Show on a Complex Topic
Sue, Thanks for boiling down this abstract -- and very hot -- topic into key fundamentals  I know I'm going to bookmark the page and refer back to it as trends develop and technologies mature. 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 9:44:12 AM
Good intro to SDN
A good explanation. SDN is one of those much-buzzed topics - like the Internet of Things - that people frequently mention without really understanding. As Cisco, Dell and others advanced somewhat different definitions of SDN and what it's supposed to do, it will be important for IT decision-makers to wander into the weeds to select the model that's best for their needs.
HaileyMcK
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HaileyMcK,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 9:57:28 AM
Word of the day
SDN is certainly the word of the day. I suspect that eventually our networks will be, by definition, software defined. In the meantime, this is really helpful primer. Thanks!
virsingh211
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virsingh211,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 10:31:56 AM
Re: Word of the day
I agree on SDN being word of day, but as it is approaching closer day by day, i feel its getting complicated for IT managers, is there any rules you would suggest as we travel on SDN road..
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 11:39:53 AM
SDN clarity
I really like how this slideshow cuts through all the different SDN messages and approaches to focus on essential SDN concepts. It brings a lot of much-needed clarity to a very important topic.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 3:38:05 PM
Re: Word of the day
Virsingh211, I couldn't agree more that SDN is extremely complex, not only in technical concept, but also in the way the vendors are approaching it and attempting to integrate open standards. (Check out today's commentary, SDN Upends The Switch & Router Market.) My advice would honestly be to wait and see. Also to fully understand the business challenges you are trying to solve and what you'd like to achieve before making any technology investments. 
sam masud
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sam masud,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 4:09:58 PM
SDN numbers
Susan,

I've come across various market estimates for SDN, and to be frank, I wonder if we can really predict the SDN market at this time since there is really is nothing to go by (no baseline) other than the traditional switch-router market. And the latter might not be a very good predictor for SDN since SDN probably will have much lower prices compared to switches-routers.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 9:17:51 AM
Re: Great Slide Show on a Complex Topic
Marilyn, I am so glad to see you again.:-) I am with you on this post. This is a great introduction to SDN and presented the essential idea. In old days we talk about MPLS VPN, Juniper Virtual Switch and Virtual Router. They have the concept about virtualization but it's not really SDN. Now the technology evolves so that we have this kind of cutting-edge architecture. I do believe that SDN is the future for networking - today still the physical network infrastructure is not used in its most efficient manner.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 9:30:31 AM
Re: Great Slide Show on a Complex Topic
Great to see you participating in the InformationWeek community, as well, Li. I know you've been following SDN with keen interest over the past few years. Do you still have a feeling of "Still Don' kNow". Or is it starting to make more sense?

If it's the latter, I wonder if you could share your understanding of the technology and some of the use cases that you might be familiar with or can imagine.

 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2013 | 11:18:01 AM
Re: SDN numbers
Sam, you have a good point about the market numbers. The chart I oncluded here was from the most recent analyst report I could find. It also includes revenue from associated equipment and support services -- so that defiition could be very widely interpreted.

I included it less for th exact data and more as a wake-up call to anyone who thinks SDN might be a passing fad. When you look at that kind of projected growth, it's hard to ignore it and hope it will just go away ;)
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