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What SDN is and where it’s going

Brandon Butler | July 20, 2017
The SDN market has emerged from early adopter to early mainstream, and in doing so its use cases have expanded.

A 2017 survey by Network World of 294 networking professionals found that 49% are either considering or actively piloting an SDN implementation; 18% have an SDN installed already. IDC has identified a handful of leading use cases for SDN today.

Maximizing investments in server virtualization and private cloud - Mehra and Casemore say that too often the network prevents organizations from realizing the maximum value of an advanced server virtualization or private-cloud deployment. If an organization can automatically create, provision, migrate and decommission VMs, having a manually controlled network that needs to set up virtual local area networks (VLANS) or other network settings will become a bottleneck.

Enabling network programmability - Some forward-leaning organizations are embracing the opportunity to programmatically control network resources, which vendors are increasingly enabling in their products. Using a management platform through a command line interface (CLI) or application program interfaces (APIs) enables increased automation of network management tasks such as creating and deprovisioning of networks and coordinating security and use policies. Having centralized SDN-control software manage the network can also help with network visibility and analytics because it has a view into the entire network environment.

Security -One of the major benefits of an SDN implementation is that it allows software-based security tools to  be installed and managed more easily on “east-west” server-to-server traffic within a data center. In an SDN environment, network administrators can more easily install virtual firewalls, encryption tools and network monitoring services to protect this intra-data center traffic.


Future use cases

While thus far many SDN deployments have focused on data center networks, Kindness, the Forrester analyst, says the future of SDN will be defined by how this technology is used outside of the data center.

A variety of factors that will continue to put pressure on network operators including the increased use of public cloud computing; the onslaught of network traffic created by the Internet of Things; the continued proliferation of a mobile workforce and an ever-increasing number of distributed branch locations. Kindness says SDN will play a role in shaping the next-generation of networks for each of these use cases. There’s already evidence of this in real-world usage:

SD-WAN - Software-defined Wide Are Networking (SD-WAN) is the use of a software management platform to control access to an organization’s remote or branch offices. Typically in the past customers would have a single connection to their branch offices, but SD-WAN enables companies to aggregate multiple types of network connections into a branch office and have a software management platform that enables high availability and can automatically prioritize traffic. SD-WANs can save on a customer’s capital expense of installing expensive customized WAN acceleration hardware by allowing them to run a software overlay on less-expensive commodity hardware. IDC expects SD-WAN could become a $6 billion market by 2020.


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