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Exploring the reality behind SDN and how it can solve major network challenges

AudreyCox

Before we understand what SDN is we must understand why SDN and what issues lie at our disposal in the given current network setup.

If you want to affect your network infrastructure and have it behave differently, then each and every network device needs to be reconfigured. Things like adding new QOS policies and hardware, all needs to be configured by an administrator. To add more woes, many of these network devices can be from different vendors and thus, an administrator with working knowledge of configuring these many devices, running on their proprietary OS, would be required. And, once your network starts scaling, it becomes even more challenging to configure more and more devices. Finally, it’ll reach a point where either your network performance will start getting impacted or you have to restrict yourself from making further changes to your network.

To put it technically, our current model hosts the control and forwarding planes of our network devices in one single box. Control plane mostly makes decisions about where and how the traffic will be sent out, whereas the forwarding plane (also known as Data plane) actually comes into picture when real traffic flows based on the control plane’s configuration.

Now coming back to our original challenge, our administrator has to configure these control planes, by using the SNMP interface or CLIs in order to affect the behavior of the data plane. Whether that means adding new HA nodes to the cluster, changing or adding a new ACL rule or anything else, it has to be configured on the device itself.

Cut to today, SDN solves this design and scalability problem by decoupling this control plane from the data plane. With SDN in place, the logic of traffic handling won’t be made in the device that is forwarding it. Rather, it uses the OpenFlow open source protocol to achieve traffic forwarding.

SDN.png

OpenFlow gives administrators a centralized control of the networks. You no longer need to configure multiple devices whenever you choose to use a new application. All you need to do is to program the centralized network once and for all and no matter where the new application is, it simply goes and fit in your network and SDN promises that it will be treated uniformly.

To summarize, SDN is indeed the answer and has much to offer to solve the upcoming hurdles in the world of networking. With SDN in place, you gain complete control of your entire network through a single programmable interface which can be physically present in your network or in the cloud.

 

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AudreyCox

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