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What does SDN(Software Defined Networking) mean?

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a system that brings several kinds of network technology together under one roof. These network technologies are basically aimed at making a network efficient and flexible as a virtualized server and storage infrastructure of the modern data center.

Why is SDN Used?

SDN is used to allow network engineers and administrators to respond in a blink, changing business requirements. Software-defined network, allows a network administrator to shape traffic from a centralized control console.  They can deliver services to wherever they are needed in the network without having to touch individual switches and without any regards to what specific devices a server or other hardware components are connected to. Functional separation, network virtualization, and automation through programmability are the key technologies for SDN implementation.

How does SDN work?

SDN deploys an application that uses the controller to manage data plane behavior, unlike traditional network that uses a specialized appliance such as a firewall or link-load balancer.  The applications communicate with the controller through its north-bound interface. SDN uses adaptive or dynamic operation modes. In these modes, there remains a switch that issues a route request to a controller for a packet that does not have a specific route.

Why do you need SDN?

With SDN, the administrator can change any network switch accordingly and prioritize, de-prioritize or even block specific types of packets. SDN even allows the administrator to manage traffic loads in a flexible and efficient manner making it helpful in a cloud computing multi-tenant architecture. It even allows the administrator to use less expensive commodity switches along with offering more control over network traffic flow than ever before.

Network programmability using software-defined networking

The network programmability provided by SDN helps cut down operational costs and enhances and enables business growth. This is simply because the traditional method of management that is- device by device and system by the system using manual methods is not efficient enough to scale at the rate required today. According to Computer Economics in 2014, the ratio of the median network device to engineer was 37 to 1 and jumping at the rate of 60% in a year, in 2015, that number increased to 59 devices per engineer. Thus the organizations can cut down their labor costs too with the increasing growth with the help of SDN.

Software-Defined Networks and OpenFlow

To make the network more programmable means efficient management of both the control plane and the data plane and to ensure that both are valuable in containing costs and enabling business growth. OpenFlow being the first standard communications interface between the control and forwarding layers of an SDN architecture offer programmability for both planes, though people tend to focus on the control side.

OpenFlow offers a system based means that essentially reprogram the path of any packet. Operators can programmatically instruct switches and routers to change routes in addition to a limited set of other actions. SDN-solutions can similarly programmatically modifying the device’s behavior and they offer APIs. The APIs help in providing, provisioning, configuring and managing the devices that form a centralized command-and-control console. These are the APIs that are used by a growing number of data center automation and orchestration providers to support network infrastructure along with application infrastructure. 

The burden of configuration and management is shifted from people to technology by automation, reducing operational costs with the help of the Control plane programmability. SDN enhances the data plane too, with programmability. The provision is made for “apps” or “plug-ins” to the SDN controller via a standard API. This API can interact with and change the behavior of the network based on the real-time flow of data.  For example, the security plug-ins such as IDS/IPS are often seen as a plus add-ons for SDN controllers. 

The Control Plane, Data Plane and Forwarding Plane

Control plane and data plane programmability are important characteristics of any network services. However, the control plane programmability is more useful to the broadest set of organizations. This is simply because it enables the automation and orchestration that leads to greater stability and reduced operating costs. The ability to automate the provisioning of services increases the speed with which those services can be deployed.  They also have the added benefits of providing consistency. On the other hand, data path programmability offers a platform for rapidly deploying a new service or modifying an existing one. This is particularly important to organization vulnerability management.

Both control and data plane are critical for a modern network. One enables the rapid growth of business and applications and the other helps in the management of cost that the organization faces due to an explosion of devices and services that are needed to support those applications. SDN is paving way for stronger and smother businesses and has become a boon for them with its characteristics and features.

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