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The rise of programmable networks

Joe Poon, Vice President of Strategy, Asia at Logicalis | July 18, 2014
SDN will create networks that are less complex to operate but are more flexible and agile than ever before

The emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN), and network virtualization, according to IDC, has the potential to underpin and enable a fundamental transformation in the way businesses and technology interacts.

It is no exaggeration to say that SDN represents the most significant transformation of networking architecture and technology since the 1950s.

We believe SDN will play a fundamental role in enabling the emergence of the services defined enterprise and, by extension, the transformation of IT departments into internal enterprise service providers.

Based on research drawn from across the Logicalis organisation, this paper:

  • Outlines the market context that has driven the development of SDN
  • Explores the SDN concept as it is currently understood
  • Assesses some of the common benefits that businesses can expect to accrue by moving towards SDN.

Market Context

The ICT market is undergoing a moment of transformation. The growth in mobile devices and social networks, the increasing adoption of cloud computing and, in the near future, the massive use of intelligent sensors in various devices connecting virtually anything to the network are all changing the way people, businesses and societies operate.

But this change brings new challenges. In all of these transformations, the network is the common denominator. It is the binding agent, and its critical role in enabling a new world of hyper-connectivity for people, businesses and governments is now under scrutiny.

Legacy Architecture

While the world of technology continues to advance, the network in most of its applications represents an architecture based on concepts born in the 1950s; the 1990s and 2000s brought impressive strides forward in the speed of networks, but this was mirrored by only incremental improvements in network intelligence.

Current network architectures are robust and powerful enough to support most current use-cases, but limitations in their physical scalability and operational effectiveness pose a significant risk to innovation in enterprise technology and in the emergence of a new, hyper-connected world.

A New Model

Responding to this challenge, manufacturers, researchers and standards bodies have embarked on a new model for network architectures.

Based on open standards, it aims to drive efficiencies in efforts to increase network scale while reducing complexity-and to increase the flexibility and speed of resource deployment while driving down the cost of complex network deployments.

Technology Concept

-       The software responsible for defining a routing process, security policies, traffic engineering and data plans, is separated from the data plane, the actual forwarding of the packet.

-        Network elements are responsible only for physical package routing, while all routing control is through software in what could be called the "intelligence layer".

As the intelligent layer is decoupled from the physical network forwarding layer, the decision-making process can now be distributed to many more systems, and resources can be driven throughout the network at greater speed and with greater flexibility.


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