This is similar to a concept now deployed in cars where the engine management system is separate from the physical engine itself. The engine still provides the horsepower and turns the wheels, but the engine management systems decide in real-time how those wheels are turned, something which dramatically improves driver experience, safety and vehicle efficiency.
But SDN goes one step further. SDN is the engine control system not for a single car, but for an entire fleet of cars.
The Programmable Network
SDN will create networks that are less complex to operate but are more flexible and agile than ever before.
- Traffic policies can be quickly refined as business demands change, all without the need to individually configure switches and routers.
- Applications can directly interact with network resources, and the infrastructure behavior can be automatically defined according to the applications needs.
- Virtualisation becomes as ubiquitous in the network as it is within the data centre, turning a relatively basic 'big pipe' into an intelligent resource that can be applied and redeployed in an instant.
Intelligent and Business Orientated
In the SDN model, network elements (routers, switches, firewalls, etc) will be driven by APIs (Application Programming Interface) in the operating system. This will allow any applications developed by a network vendor or a mobile application vendor to interact with the system's control plane, making traffic engineering decisions based on much more than just the physical device's MAC, IP address or basic CoS or QoS metrics.
In the new world, decisions could be made on information and business requirements as abstract as the SDN model itself. This includes temperature, link cost, energy consumption or practically any business driver.
SDN promises to unleash a wealth of business benefits; perhaps the most significant of those is the role it will play in enabling the emergence of service-defined enterprises.
Specific benefits depend on use cases, industry and individual applications, though there are a number of outcomes that are likely to be universally beneficial, including complexity reduction, centralised and more granular control, improved application experience, and advances in availability, reliability and security.
Abstracting the control of the network from the physical infrastructure breaks the link between human control and network control. This both removes complexity and improves response times to changes to the profile of the network, whether that is provisioning new services in the data centre, provisioning new services across a WAN, or the direct application orchestration of real-time network resources.
SDN is a move from a manual to an automated environment, an improvement which will increase the physical speed of resources infinitely while delivering consistent performance as scale grows.
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