The point is that replacing the brick-by-brick hardware management of a network with central software control system opens up a whole new world of opportunities for the IT department. With global visibility and control you can dynamically provision the network and make it more elastic and optimise the use of resources. SDN traffic management allows network virtualisation and can help support cloud services, including hybrid cloud computing.
Service-aware routing can streamline delivery of video and other lengthy traffic flows according to a user's profile, the congestion state of network, and other parameters. SDN permits scalable, granular bandwidth allocation: you can use SDN to program the right access, security, QoS, and other policies along with the pipelines for each flow to offer high-level services, or an optimal user experience, without having to configure a whole lot of boxes along the path. A user could switch between chatting on their smart phone, watching a video, and streaming music without any service degradation. Video conferences and interactive traffic can be sent down paths engineered for optimal experience while other traffic is routed normally.
The question is not whether SDN has any relevance for enterprise networking, but rather: what is the best way to find out more?
The way forward
This article has aimed to present SDN and OpenFlow in the simplest way, but the fact is that it is the beginning of a complex and fast-evolving topic. Much has been written already on the subject, but a lot of it is speculative or biased towards a particular company's preferred technology and approach.
By all means read further about the subject, but every business is different and it is better to consult a company with long experience in delivering SDN solutions. In view of the key role currently being played by OpenFlow in accelerating SDN development, you need a company that supports an open standards-based approach rather than locking you into a proprietary straightjacket - so choose a member of the ONF to advise you.
SDN is a hot topic, and for very good reasons. The best strategy is to be informed and to keep an eye on developments. Even if your company is not yet in dire need of this technology, SDN will be playing an increasing role in maintaining competitiveness.
A more nimble network will help your business outpace the competition - don't be left behind.
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