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Q&A: Interview with @WildPackets Talking Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

As with any new trend or buzzword, there is the question of whether companies using the new technology are doing so correctly.  Recently, many companies have made announcements about their work with the somewhat newly minted software-defined networking (SDN) market, but the question remains, are they doing so accurately?  To find out more about this growing industry, I spoke with Jay Botelho, director of product management at WildPackets, to discuss his thoughts on SDN.

VMblog:  What are some of the major trends you are seeing with regard to software-defined networking?

Jay Botelho:  One of the biggest trends we see is in Network Function Virtualization (NFV) - the virtualization of network nodes into building blocks (Wikipedia). We believe the reason for this is because it addresses the most pressing issue today - moving away from proprietary and complex network elements that are difficult to manage and configure to a virtualized architecture that is easily programmable and compatible with dynamic routing and switching changes. 

VMblog:  And how has it helped automate and configure network devices?

Botelho:  This automation is really just beginning, and it is too early to really assess its success. However, the willingness of key network equipment vendors to build complete solutions, and not leave the details of SDN implementation up to the end users, is extremely encouraging. 

VMblog:  How has it helped decrease the complexities of cloud and virtualization?

Botelho:  It's not so much about decreasing the complexity as it is taking full advantage of cloud and virtualization solutions. Both of these technologies are now well entrenched and have been successful without SDN. SDN is going to increase the breadth and capabilities of these solutions, allowing cloud-based solutions to expand at an even greater rate. 

VMblog:  What advice would you give to a virtualization or cloud admin in instrumenting SDN?

Botelho:  Look for standards-based solutions whenever possible, and make sure that what is being claimed as standards based truly is. 

VMblog:  Curious, can you explain the relationship between SDN and the increase in the enterprise's use of OpenFLow?

Botelho:  For the time being the relationship seems to be mostly based on northbound APIs in OpenFlow and efficiencies on the operational side of the network. With APIs for centralized management and automation, dynamic configuration, and advanced analytics, enterprise network management is becoming far more streamlined based on the use of OpenFlow's northbound APIs.

VMblog:  How are most organizations using the technology today and are they doing so correctly?

Botelho:  Again, most enterprises are using it to achieve operational efficiencies today, and that seems to be the lowest hanging fruit for them. Telecom and service providers are in a better position to take advantage of southbound APIs and also achieve true CapEx efficiencies, but that's because the network is at the core of their business.

VMblog:  What are some of the problems organizations are encountering as they start to use SDN?

Botelho:  Lack of interoperability is one of the biggest problems. This will hopefully decrease over time as both standards and implementations mature, but that is not a guarantee. 

VMblog:  Finally, how is WildPackets helping organizations better understand the benefits of SDN?

Botelho:  In the end, networks are still transporting packets. And with SDN being a relatively new technology, one key advantage of doing packet and protocol analysis across the network is to verify that the network is behaving correctly under the control of this new technology. Developing new solutions based on SDN has a steep learning curve, and mistakes will be made. WildPackets helps organizations quickly see these mistakes on their network, regardless of the source of the problem.

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Once again, thanks to Jay Botelho of WildPackets for taking time out to speak with VMblog and discuss SDN with us.

Published Wednesday, April 23, 2014 6:42 AM by David Marshall
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