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How does SDN automation work?

Expert Lee Doyle explains how software-defined networking enables network automation -- leading to lower costs, faster provisioning and better scalability.

Software-defined networking gives IT organizations deploying large data centers and complex applications the ability to automate the rapid provisioning of network resources. Leading IT organizations are rapidly adopting cloud-centric architectures and converged DevOps teams to accelerate application development and reduce costs.

The DevOps style of application development requires rapid provisioning, scalable resources and automated operations to flexibly deliver IT services. The challenge is that the traditional methods of network provisioning (e.g. manually configuring each device) can't scale to meet the demands of large data centers or complex distributed applications (e.g. Hadoop, big data and Internet of Things).

SDN automation can reduce operational costs by shifting the challenges of configuration from people to technology. IT organizations need technology to help architect the processes necessary to provision the various network services -- including security policies -- required by an application. Many hyperscale cloud providers, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, have already deployed SDN automation technologies to help provision and manage their networks.

SDN-based networks can detect changes in traffic flow and select the path data takes through a network based on parameters such as application type, quality of service and security rules. SDN provides application program interfaces (APIs) that enable flexible end-to-end configuration of services across many network devices. These APIs can be employed by orchestration and cloud management systems to request changes in the network. Thus, SDN automation can direct the network to provide services aligned with its associated applications and support rapid deployment of a large number of new applications and microservices, such as containers.

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This was last published in February 2016

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