10 SDN Platform Options

From open source SDN like OpenDaylight to Cisco ACI and VMware NSX, enterprises have many choices in SDN platforms.

While software-defined networking may not be on your near-term roadmap just yet, you should at least begin the process of understanding the technologies and platform options available to you. SDN is being driven because networks now lag behind other areas of infrastructure, particularly in the compute and storage arenas. Advancements such as virtualization, distributed architectures, big data and cloud computing will require networks that can adapt and optimize on the fly using centralized intelligence. In this slideshow, we'll look at 10 SDN platforms that are likely to impact enterprise networking.

When you look at each of the platforms, you'll likely notice similarities, differences and reoccurring themes. While the southbound OpenFlow protocol is currently the most widely supported and used, there are plenty of alternatives available and each platform supports a different range of protocols.

Included with the commercial SDN platforms we highlight are many open source SDN platforms, such as OpenDaylight. A number of commercial SDN products actually leverage open source platforms, but tweak them to better suit their customers. Commercial products also provide support options that are not available in an open source project.

It’s important to understand the differences between platforms that are pure SDN and those that are designed for network virtualization and NFV. Platforms that are considered software-defined networking are those that utilize hardware and software to not only orchestrate dynamic policy, but also to forward those frames/packets on a complete system.

Network virtualization on the other hand, does not have the native forwarding capability. Instead, it creates a virtual network overlay using software that performs similar path control functions of SDN, but all forwarding duties are done at the physical underlay layer. Network functions virtualization (NFV) takes this concept to the next level by virtualizing layer 4-7 network functions such as firewalls, intrusion prevention systems and load balancers. Both network virtualization and NFV can operate on networking equipment that is not SDN capable. Keep in mind that it’s also possible to combine both SDN and NFV to provide the benefits of both architectures.

(Image: Ksenia Palimski/iStockphoto)

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich, President, West Gate Networks

President, West Gate Networks

As a highly experienced network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, particularly in the United States and Southeast Asia, Andrew Froehlich has nearly two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Froehlich has participated in the design and maintenance of networks for State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, Chicago-area schools and the University of Chicago Medical Center. He is the founder and president of Loveland, Colo.-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build outs. The author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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