9 SDN Starter Kits And Freebies

Looking to try your hand at software-defined networking, but don't know where to begin? Here are some options.

Marcia Savage

July 23, 2015

10 Slides

Software-defined networking might sound intriguing, but if you're a busy network engineer, how do you have time to really check it out? A growing number of pre-packaged bundles of SDN technologies are trying to make it easy to get started.

Since Pica8 launched the first SDN starter kit about 18 months ago, other vendors have followed with their own kits designed to help network pros get their feet wet and overcome barriers to enterprise SDN adoption. In general, any sort of SDN starter kit is helpful, Ethan Banks, a network architect and Packet Pushers Podcast host, said in an email interview.

"These are tools that ease a network engineer into a different approach to networking. While engineers are used to the device-by-device management approach, the SDN approach is centralized -- a whole different operational strategy," he said. "The starter kits take all the needed components and make them easy to consume, taking some of the fear out of trying SDN. You get software, a controller, and switches with varying capabilities, depending on the kit."

What's key, Banks said, is that many starter kits target specific SDN use cases. "SDN is not a thing that you buy. SDN is a tool that facilitates specific business goals. The starter kits are bundled with this in mind, offering a package that helps a business accomplish something specific, and not just provide SDN as a sort of lab experiment," he said.

He cited Big Switch's Big Cloud Fabric starter kit, which targets users building data center fabrics, and Plexxi's kits that integrate with OpenStack and focus on big data deployments.

"Bottom line, most of the SDN starter kits put together all the pieces required to demonstrate specific value of SDN technology, as opposed to SDN for its own sake. That's helpful to network engineers as they should come away from the evaluation process able to communicate business value -- not merely technical capability," Banks said.

Tom Hollingsworth, a network engineer and blogger, said SDN starter kits are appealing because they offer the right combination of products "to make everything work" for a proof-of-concept or lab deployment.

"With hardware networking, a forgotten module or device could derail a project. Likewise, software can have issues with licensing or support. By crafting bundles that include the proper hardware, software, and support, companies are hoping that when the SDN conversation happens, the customer will respond with the purchase of the appropriate kit and begin deploying new technology rapidly without worry for missing pieces or inability to configure things correctly," he said in an email interview.

Continue on for a sampling of some of the many SDN starter kits available today, along with some free ways to test out SDN technologies.

Image: geralt/Pixabay

About the Author(s)

Marcia Savage

Executive Editor, Network Computing

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox
More Insights