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Extreme Networks 2014 Predictions - SDN Brings Radical Changes in Network Management and Control in 2014

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed article by Markus Nispel, Vice President of Solutions Architecture for Extreme Networks

SDN Brings Radical Changes in Network Management and Control in 2014

Software Defined Networks (SDN) made serious traction within the industry this year, evolving from trend to reality. SDN is all about increased agility and lower operational cost through automation and orchestration with the rest of the IT infrastructure, as well as increased visibility and control within the network infrastructure. This is achieved by providing centralized management and control, network programmability with an open API and vendor interoperability as well as integration capabilities. It takes advantage of a programmatic interface in the network fabric to enable IT to provision new services on the fly, provide network virtualization, automate tasks and orchestrate different systems in both physical and virtual networks. As a result we get improved:

  • Network efficiency along with a higher degree of orchestration and automation
  • IT agility through fast and reliable application services, and;
  • Advanced analytics of all resources so the organization can easily monitor and control these resources and make strategic business decisions.

The majority of SDN solutions provide applications an interface for programmability but the network itself, for the most part, is not application flow aware because this requires a different level of scale at the data plane level. That often results in the lack of proper abstraction of the network infrastructure towards the applications. In 2014, IT will transition its focus on application awareness at both the control AND the data plane to improve SDN and deliver better results.

In general, the network must be aware of the application and the applications need to be aware of the network (but not the details of network topology, configuration and so on: the key is a proper abstraction into the API between the network and those applications) to ensure services can be easily provisioned and managed to deliver on its promises of automation, simplicity, agility and reliability. Where thinking has traditionally faltered, is the belief that to become application centric you only need to do so at the control network - wrong - it also needs to be in the data plane. I recently explained some key ways to achieve application awareness and deliver a detailed, real-time understanding of traffic. 
  • Awareness needs to go beyond the control plane into the data plane. Today's SDN solutions are too narrowly focused on large cloud data centers and not enough on the specific requirements of the enterprise data center. In doing so, it has become reliant on a data plane that is based on commodity silicon, which in turn limits capabilities and scale. For enterprise networks, this can be a critical function compared to a service-provider network that focuses on connectivity services. In order to achieve true visibility and control with high granularity and scale, specific network infrastructure capabilities need to be present. Those are provided today by use of custom flow-based ASIC technologies. In 2014 the industry will come to this conclusion as technologies like Openflow are heading towards the trough of disillusionment in the (Gartner) hype cycle.
  • Looking beyond the network data-plane layer, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and application policy technologies also have a role. You must be able to classify applications within the network and then apply policy to those application flows - whether on a virtual switch, within a flow-based physical switch or at a control layer working with a switch. Such capabilities provide an even higher degree of abstraction and so they are a key ingredient for a deployable SDN architecture. Again, it's up to the applications to determine how the policy will look - we are certain to hear more on this in 2014.

In 2014, SDNs will become much more deployable to address the enterprises practical needs to create a dynamic and agile network infrastructure aimed at the deployment of new services through common APIs. With more of a focus on the applications though, end users will see increased network reliability, simplicity and security. As a result, enterprises benefit from the consistent user experience coupled with compelling OpEx savings.  

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About the Author

Markus Nispel is the Vice President of Solutions Architecture for Extreme Networks. Working closely with key customers, his focus is on strategic product development across all key technology areas for Extreme.

Published Wednesday, November 27, 2013 9:41 AM by David Marshall
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