Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Stefan Bernbo, Michel Courtoy, Amitabh Sinha, Mike Wood

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, @BigDataExpo

SDN Journal: Article

The Reality vs. the Hype – The Truth About Software-Defined Networking

SDN began at places like Stanford and Berkeley as a way to build research networks using overlay

As the proliferation of data continues, traditional networking infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the world's influx of information and data. Legacy networking technologies are in need of an overhaul and software-defined networking (SDN) has been touted as the response and the next big thing in virtual networking. Many IT managers already have the flexibility, scalability and automation capabilities of virtualized servers and storage, and want the same attributes in their networks. As businesses enter the second half of 2013, CIOs and CTOs can attest to the serious hype around SDN as the new go-to solution. Many companies - from Arista, VMware (Nicera) to Cisco - have jumped on the bandwagon with their recently developed SDN products and technology roadmaps.

But with every "crash diet" or technology craze, there are still pointed questions that need to be asked: Is this just the latest hype - or are we in a new "networking" reality?

The Most Obvious: Why Now?
SDN began at places like Stanford and Berkeley as a way to build research networks using overlay. In basic terms, SDN is conventionally talked about as an approach to networking where control is decoupled from hardware and given to a software application called a controller. But the main business driver is the need for automation, flexibility and scale as well as the frustration with command-line interfaces and the need to touch hundreds - if not thousands - of boxes and devices to roll out applications and provision services.

Global enterprises are expressing a true and real interest in SDN solutions. The promise is more affordable, simpler, programmable, interoperable automation of service chains and provisioning. Most recently, Google went public with its description of its SDN WAN build out, helping the company to improve networking manageability, lower costs and to share its data among the tens of thousands of data centers the company currently operates. Now that Google has entered the ring, service providers, Web 2.0 companies and select Fortune 500 enterprises are beginning to test the waters.

The Hype: Key Challenges Businesses Face Now
Some may argue that our world has seen quite a few tech trends that were more hype than help. Going from proof of concept (POC) testing to fully operational networks might take customers two to three years. One limitation of SDN solutions today is that they are switch-centric and don't extend to the server endpoints, let alone the host application interface. If the SDN hype continues, enterprises can expect to see interest in "extending technologies" or products that are capable of extending an SDN control plane from the edge switch through the application interface. Open source user level networking solutions that are available today, such as OpenOnload, already provide applications with direct access to the network and an open control plane, enabling some truly unique capabilities in an SDN solution.

The Reality: What Is Being Done Today?
There is more to SDNs than OpenFlow but many startups are working on OpenFlow solutions. OpenFlow is a communications protocol that provides access to the forwarding plane of a network switch or router over the network. Put simply, OpenFlow allows the path of network packets through the network of switches to be determined by software. Architects behind SDN, from Stanford and various Web 2.0 companies, established the Open Networking Foundation to transform networking through the development and standardization of SDN.

If CIOs and CTOs want to see a world where the SDN lives up to the current hype, a focus on open technologies is critical. To mix metaphors, the brave new world of SDN will not be created in seven days and can only come into existence based on robust, open standards. OpenFlow-enabled networks are only a subset of SDNs. Yet arguably the first step toward building an SDN near term is to deploy OpenFlow-enabled devices. For example, Google used switches based on merchant silicon and software based on the OpenFlow specification.

Build for Today to Benefit Tomorrow
There are also several efforts underway to show the beef. Today, technology leaders at customers and research consortia in the U.S., Europe and Asia are beginning to evaluate vendors in order to build OpenFlow networks for test beds and POC testing. A key goal of these POCs is to demonstrate that a multivendor OpenFlow network can perform under typical business loads.

To put it simply, data center managers need to prove the performance of these software-defined networks to start building the transition to this "open" and brave new world.

More Stories By Bruce Tolley

Bruce Tolley, PhD, is Vice President, Solutions and Outbound Marketing, at Solarflare. Previously, he served as Solarflare's Vice President of Marketing, and earlier Director of Product Management. Prior to joining Solarflare, Tolley was a Senior Product Line Manager at Cisco Systems where he managed the Ethernet transceiver business, and launched Layer 2/3/4, Metro Ethernet, 10 Gigabit switches. Prior to Cisco, he served in various marketing management roles at 3Com Corporation.

Formerly Study Group Chair of the IEEE 802.3aq 10GBASE-LRM standards project, Tolley has been frequent contributor to the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standards projects. He holds a BA from UC Santa Cruz, MA from Stanford University, MBA from Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, and a PhD from Stanford University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
As more and more companies are making the shift from on-premises to public cloud, the standard approach to DevOps is evolving. From encryption, compliance and regulations like GDPR, security in the cloud has become a hot topic. Many DevOps-focused companies have hired dedicated staff to fulfill these requirements, often creating further siloes, complexity and cost. This session aims to highlight existing DevOps cultural approaches, tooling and how security can be wrapped in every facet of the bu...
For financial firms, the cloud is going to increasingly become a crucial part of dealing with customers over the next five years and beyond, particularly with the growing use and acceptance of virtual currencies. There are new data storage paradigms on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive financial data around the world without touching terrestrial networks. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Cliff Beek, President of Cloud Constellation Corporation, d...
IT organizations are moving to the cloud in hopes to approve efficiency, increase agility and save money. Migrating workloads might seem like a simple task, but what many businesses don’t realize is that application migration criteria differs across organizations, making it difficult for architects to arrive at an accurate TCO number. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO of CloudHealth Technologies, will offer a systematic approach to understanding the TCO of a cloud application...
"With Digital Experience Monitoring what used to be a simple visit to a web page has exploded into app on phones, data from social media feeds, competitive benchmarking - these are all components that are only available because of some type of digital asset," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, S...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
The goal of Continuous Testing is to shift testing left to find defects earlier and release software faster. This can be achieved by integrating a set of open source functional and performance testing tools in the early stages of your software delivery lifecycle. There is one process that binds all application delivery stages together into one well-orchestrated machine: Continuous Testing. Continuous Testing is the conveyer belt between the Software Factory and production stages. Artifacts are m...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Cloud resources, although available in abundance, are inherently volatile. For transactional computing, like ERP and most enterprise software, this is a challenge as transactional integrity and data fidelity is paramount – making it a challenge to create cloud native applications while relying on RDBMS. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Claus Jepsen, Chief Architect and Head of Innovation Labs at Unit4, will explore that in order to create distributed and scalable solutions ensuring high availa...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprise architects are increasingly adopting multi-cloud strategies as they seek to utilize existing data center assets, leverage the advantages of cloud computing and avoid cloud vendor lock-in. This requires a globally aware traffic management strategy that can monitor infrastructure health across data centers and end-user experience globally, while responding to control changes and system specification at the speed of today’s DevOps teams. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Gray, Chie...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
"We're here to tell the world about our cloud-scale infrastructure that we have at Juniper combined with the world-class security that we put into the cloud," explained Lisa Guess, VP of Systems Engineering at Juniper Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., discussed how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advantage ...
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, presented an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He then expounded on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and ...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, will provide a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to ...