Why do I need SDN technology?

Lee Doyle

Why should I consider implementing software-defined networking?

While the need for software-defined networking (SDN) technologies will be driven by specific network requirements, the most common challenge driving SDN within the data center is that large data center networks do not easily support the dynamic requirements of server virtualization. Specifically, this means the ability to provision network services quickly and easily to new virtual machines. Outside the data center, however, SDN could change WANs, campus networks and branch networks that need to have open APIs and improved network flexibility to support dynamic traffic flows to reduce latency and guarantee Quality of Service for specific applications.

Generally, SDN technologies promise the following benefits for the network:

  • Rapid provisioning of network services to virtual machines in a data center environment instead of the current labor-intensive practice of manually provisioning network and security resources to new or migrated virtual machines
  • Improved network visibility and reduced operational costs. Current network management tools are limited in function and hard to use, resulting in high operational costs for most networks
  • Programmability: the ability to use open APIs to link applications to the network. Current networks lack a common set of APIs, which make it very difficult to program applications directly to network resources
  • Support for network "slices" in campus environments, which enable IT managers to segment the network for specific departments (such as research and development) while allowing other network user groups to run independently.

Because both enterprises and service providers are interested in SDN, the business case to implement SDN technologies will vary widely in IT and network environments. IT and network professionals should examine their use cases for SDN and evaluate migration costs from non-SDN to SDN software and hardware. They should also look at network management concerns in terms of a reduction in operational costs, and security requirements related to SDN implementations.

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