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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

With a dramatically simpler infrastructure model, it is easier to improve operational agility, reduce operational costs, and reassign specialist resources away from mundane tasks.

Centralised and More Granular Control

SDN brings expansive networks under a centralised control, moving the programmability of homogenous networks from different vendors back to a central point. It also moves network control from a linear model of macro control to much finer and nuanced policy implementations.

The combination of these two characteristics ensures the ability and flexibility of networks based on the new architecture. Central decisions can be made and implemented, and those decisions can accurately direct resources and network profiles to create subtle changes that can deliver significant characteristic improvements.

SDN also levels the playing field for the underlying networking infrastructure, bringing together infrastructures that are currently independent and turning them into a singularly controllable network. This is true even in complex environments such as the data centre where LAN, WAN, firewall, and load balancing resources may come from different vendors.

SDN treats them simply as programmable resources, stitching them together at a control plane and allowing them to be directed as one. SDN also addresses one of the main issues in traditional network architecture the need to "pile up" protocols created to meet different demands.

When making a change to large infrastructures, a new interwoven configuration is necessary for each element changed, and it is up to the operational team to ensure that configuration X works seamlessly with configuration Y. With software-defined networks, it is possible to replace some of the protocols that operate in a "pile up" mode, thus creating a more efficient routing environment.

Improved Application Experience

One of the most celebrated characteristics of SDN is its ability to create intelligent responses to business demands. With simpler configuration and centralised control, network administrators can align infrastructures directly to specific application or end user needs.

Network environment virtualisation also allows the establishment of scalable and flexible traffic policies-based on the direct requirement of each individual application, allowing application changes or new deployments to be directly reflected in the network layer.

As a result, the network acts and responds to the needs of applications in real-time, which results in a better user experience, or reflects an abstracted decision-making process such as the cost of WAN bandwidth during a video call or the need to route an application through a specific security environment.

Availability, Reliability and Security

SDN architectures significantly improve the availability, reliability and security of network environments by eliminating the need for manual interventions and individual device configurations.

Most outages of IT resources are caused by physical hardware failures or manual configuration errors, and most security flaws to IT systems are caused by incorrect configuration of firewalls, routers or other security resources.

 

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