Many IT decision-makers today are opting to replace legacy networking infrastructure with software-defined networking (SDN). In this article we take a look at the various benefits of SDN, and how it is being leveraged to respond to the changing face of enterprise networks.
SDN segregates the forwarding process of network packets (data plane) from the routing process (control plane), and decouples the network from physical hardware, thereby creating a control logic which is run using software in the Cloud. This allows network administrators and engineers to centrally control the network of both physical and virtual devices without having to touch individual switches. (For a more detailed definition of SDN, read our What Is: Software-Defined Networking article).
By provisioning network devices from a central location, network administration is made much more flexible and agile. With the rise in the adoption of cloud, mobile, and Internet of Things technologies, and people needing to work remotely at any time and on any device, enterprises are encountering new pressures which legacy networking infrastructure is not equipped to meet.
SDN brings increased simplicity by making network functions that previously resided in hardware directly programmable and automatable, eliminating manual processes and accelerating service delivery. Increased programmability also facilitates innovation, enabling new network technologies, applications and services to be deployed more easily.
Virtualisation is bringing new security complexities to enterprise networks; due to more virtual machines entering and leaving physical systems, the consistent application of firewall and content filtering policies is made more challenging. SDN has the advantage of centralised security management, allowing IT professionals to distribute security and policy information consistently throughout the enterprise network from a central point of control.
In addition to virtualisation, the rapid growth of connected IoT devices, mobile workers and cloud applications, all of which use the public Internet as the enterprise network, is also giving rise to new security challenges. To combat this, SDN can provide a virtual overlay network, which is built over the public Internet and underlying physical network. This means that all traffic is secured across the entire network with end-to-end abstraction and encryption.
As we have seen, pressures on enterprise networks are greater than ever, and extending legacy infrastructure to address these can create complexities. Providing a programmable and automatable platform with security benefits, software-defined networking for the enterprise delivers the flexibility to network control and customisation that these networks demand.