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PLUMgrid 2017 Predictions: SDN-Powered Digitalization

VMblog Predictions 2017

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2017.  Read them in this 9th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Wendy Cartee, VP of Product Management and Marketing, PLUMgrid

2017: SDN-Powered Digitalization

2017 will kick off the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," led by advanced technologies that drive economic, political and social changes in the next decade. At the core of these technologies is digitalization as the driving force in Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017. The trends describe 3 themes - Intelligent, Digital, and Mesh which include technologies such as AI, machine learning, VR/AR, smart things, etc. Underpinning these technologies is networking which connects and facilitates the flow of information and data for analysis, decision-making, and action.

Networking itself is undergoing a massive transformation, from providing bare connectivity to becoming intelligent pathways that are software-driven, automated, and programmable. What started with SDN is, to date, still in the infancy of network transformation. SDN will combine with AI, machine learning, automation, and security to become a network platform that enables the intelligent digital mesh.

The evolution of SDNs will continue for many years and as the industry moves beyond the initial stages, we have much to look forward to in 2017 and beyond.   

1.     SDN as the Automated Network Platform

SDN implementations are increasingly taking a platform approach with plug and play support for any VNF, topology, and analytics that are instrumented and automated. More vendors are opening up their SDN platforms to third-party VNFs and providing service function chaining to create virtual topologies not only within a private cloud, but also across hybrid clouds. While the promise of SDN is just starting to unfold, its value proposition is becoming far more strategic and crucial in driving agile business models. The ability to add, upgrade, replace, remove, or collect metadata within seconds from any SDN topology and its components (consisting of any combination of network functions from switching, routing, DNS, firewall, load balancer, SBC, to EPC) is a paradigm shift and a competitive advantage that businesses can't ignore.  

2.     Convergence of SDN and Security

Security has been elevated to a boardroom topic, as breaches are increasingly sophisticated and can cause irreparable damage to companies' brands and bottom lines. With virtualization increasing, so is dependency on the cloud. Data centers are running more applications and workloads, and the cost of breaches are going up. CISOs need technologies that allow new security measures to be loaded and unloaded on-demand without disruption. Some companies are discovering the security benefits of SDN - not only for its ability to run any program on-demand but also for virtual segmentation and automation.

3.     SDN Architectures Embrace eBPF and XDP

Four years ago, PLUMgrid quietly upstreamed code to the Linux kernel called Extended Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF or eBPF). A Linux subsystem for packet processing, it allows programs to be loaded and executed in kernel at runtime, so systems no longer need to be taken offline for updates. Jonathan Corbet of LWN best describes this as "the universal in-kernel virtual machine."  In 2015, networking industry stalwarts came together to launch it as a Linux Foundation open source community, the IO Visor Project, to drive the ongoing development and upstream of eBPF.

This year, eXpress Data Plane (XDP) was upstreamed from the project to Linux, adding blazingly fast performance. Combined, eBPF and XDP are delivering flexibility, scale, security, and performance for a broad set of functions beyond networking without bypassing the kernel. Examples of uses include tracing by Brendan Gregg of Netflix, monitoring through the CETH framework by Huawei, DDoS mitigation as demonstrated at OpenStack Summit, the container networking project Cilium, and the SDN Open vSwitch (OVS) community exploring eBPF and XDP at the recent OVS summit as the basis of its future architecture. With IO Visor Project, SDNs for VMs, containers, and bare metal gain new runtime capabilities with scale-out performance, security, tracing, analytics and visibility into both virtual and physical infrastructures.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be characterized by technological synthesis that blurs the lines between physical, digital, biological and other as yet unknown endeavors.  In the book, The Seventh Sense - Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, the author described the transformative impact of networks, shattering traditional social economic models that no longer hold true. Networks are just beginning to unravel what we used to know, and propel us forward to new beginnings. This is an amazing time across all network virtualization technologies - data center SDNs, SD-WANs, and NFV -  with so much discovery and innovation yet to be made.

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About the Author

Wendy Cartee is VP of Product Management and Marketing at PLUMgrid, Inc. With more than 15 years of experience at companies such as Cisco, Juniper, and HP Cloud, Wendy has defined solutions for data centers, WAN, Internet, and mobile infrastructure that generated billions in revenue. An avid technology and customer advocate, Wendy has eight U.S. patents and is listed in the CCIE Hall of Fame as one of the first 100 CCIEs in the world.   

Wendy Cartee 

Published Monday, November 28, 2016 7:01 AM by David Marshall
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