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An SDN control system is a part of a software-defined network that manages flow control across the network. An SDN system adheres to several protocols and manages the switches on one side and the applications on the other, in addition to managing the navigation of network packets – an activity similar to port forwarding.

The two most well known protocols used to communicate with routers and switches are OpenFlow and Open vSwitch Database (OVSDB). There are other control protocols being developed, while at the same time well-established networking protocols are being modified so that they can work seamlessly in an SDN environment.

The type of protocol utilized influences the overall architecture of the SDN control system. In essence, the SDN control system serves as an operating system, taking the control plane from the hardware and running it like a software component. This enables the system to control the flow of information through automated network management. 

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