SDN will drastically alter how Network Infrastructures are managed

Software-defined networks (SDNs) represent a forward-step in networking technology, but it is becoming more and more obvious that it is going to take time to understand how to implement SDNs if they are going to support organisational requirements.

It promises a virtual network infrastructure that can be delivered as easily as setting up a new virtual server. However, real-world implemented SDNs are difficult to find other than a handful of customers who have dedicated enormous amounts of resources and energy to set them up.

To understand how SDN would fit with your current network infrastructure, we must first understand exactly what it is.

What is SDN?

A good working definition of SDN, according to TechTarget (2015), is that it is “the separation of the data and control functions of today’s routers and other Layer 2 networking infrastructure, with a well-defined programming interface between the two. In contrast, most of today’s routers and other networking gear mix the two functions, making it hard to adjust network infrastructure as we add tens or hundreds of virtual machines (VMs) to our enterprise data centres.”

Separating the data and control planes has big implications for network design. It enables both the plane functions to match the implementation requirements to the most optimal combination of available hardware and software.

Given all the SDN hype, what should you do for your organisation?

That depends on your current infrastructure environment and where you are in relation to virtualisation and cloud based systems, and where you want to go.

Firstly, if you have servers in the cloud, you should begin researching if the traditional networking vendors can offer you the connection between on-premise and cloud data centres and whether they can handle the networks you need.

Secondly, you should look at your VLAN strategy and see if there is room to scale. Many organisations have optimisation to move network priority from overnight backup before load starts again in the morning, but businesses could be struggling as the amount of data puts pressure on managing your VLANs.

Lastly, SDN is more than just separating data from control – it additionally means designing and implementing completely new network infrastructures from the ground up.

Quite clearly, SDN is here to stay. Its increasing popularity means that your organisation needs to start thinking about a better way to build your future network infrastructure.