Bringing the Future of Your Data Center into Focus: Demystifying Software-Defined Networking
By Ralph Carter
As an IT leader, on any given day, you get a lot of new terminology thrown at you. Let’s face it, the very face of how your organization approaches (or should be approaching) IT strategy has had to evolve regularly as growth and other concerns occur, in order to be affordable and maximize effectiveness. With that said, however, there is one trend in the terms of solutions that has stuck around with good reason: the software-defined network.
Of course with that, a slew of other computing phrases come along, and what started out as something that seemed sensible and clear, becomes a bit blurry very quickly. And if it feels that way to you, imagine trying to parlay the relevance to various other non-IT-savvy teams within your own company!
The truth of the matter is it doesn’t have to feel like you’re looking at the optometrist’s eye chart without your contacts or glasses. Just like anything else, starting with the basics can bring everything into focus.
So what exactly is software-defined networking (SDN) or alternatively, software-defined data and networking (SDDN)? Most SDDN approaches follow a three-tier approach. The virtual or software-defined network itself is broken into three distinct layers: the physical substrate of the actual network components and the physical machines connected to it, the abstraction layer of the network virtualization software, and then virtual machines that use the software-defined network.
The two critical things to understand from this standardized approach to SDDN are that there must always be a functioning, physical network in place and some sort of software to do the network abstraction. While not strictly a part of SDDN—most models take into account that modern data centers use machine virtualization and add a layer to express this.
SDDN solutions handle all physical and logical network addressing needs, instead of that being tackled by physical hardware. The functional equivalent of a “network hypervisor” reproduces the complete set of Layer 2 to Layer 7 networking services (e.g., switching, routing, access control, firewalling, quality of service (QoS), and load balancing) in software.
Just like server virtualization allows a single physical machine to run hundreds of virtualized servers, with SDDN, it is possible to run multiple isolated, secure networks on a single, physical network, eliminating the need to create separate “sandbox” networks for development and testing, another for production, and perhaps a third or fourth of highly secure traffic. All networks become programmatically defined with the SDDN, but can run on single physical network.
So now to the good stuff – what the rest of your company may be most interested in; based on this basic three-layer approach to SDDN, there are substantial business and technical benefits you can achieve. These include:
- Cost Reduction: SDDN does not require a huge investment. The use of SDDN in a production environment can help reduce the costs involved in purchasing expensive hardware.
- Overhead Reduction: Reducing the costs without impacting the productivity of your IT workforce is critical in today’s ever-increasing economic environment. Software-defined data and networking solutions can help address this issue.
- Reduced Downtime: With the virtualization of the physical networking devices, it is easy to perform an upgrade for one piece rather than needing to do it for several devices.
- Security: SDDN provides firewall controls and security for East-West traffic inside the data center, minimizing the risk and impact of data breaches.
And to be perfectly clear, that’s just the start of the list. A new whitepaper entitled Demystifying Software-Defined Data and Networking: Moving Toward the Future, takes the guesswork out of this modern approach, fully bringing all of the important components and business benefits clearly into focus for your organization. Click here to read the full piece.