Software defined networking FAQs: Gartner

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oe Skorupa, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, explains that SDN is not only limited to data center and service provider networks

Software defined networking (SDN) is creating a lot of excitement in data centREs, but current technology is still relatively immature. In the new research note "Ending The Confusion Around Software Defined Networking (SDN): A Taxonomy", Joe Skorupa, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, explains that SDN is not only limited to data center and service provider networks.

Skorupa answered some questions around the current state of SDN and how it will evolve:

Q - What is Software Defined Networking?

A - (SDN is a new approach to designing, building and operating networks that supports business agility. SDN brings a similar degree of agility to networks that abstraction, virtualization and orchestration have brought to server infrastructure.

In the SDN architecture, the control and data planes are decoupled, network intelligence and state are logically centralized, and the underlying network infrastructure is abstracted from network applications and features. In addition, programmability enables external control and automation that allow for highly scalable, flexible networks that readily adapt to changing business needs.

While a great deal of attention has been directed toward SDN in data center networks and service provider networks, it can also be applied to campus networks and, enterprise WANs. The applicability and benefits will vary by use case.

Q - What Models Exist for SDN Deployment?

A - Three deployment approaches are possible - switched-based, overlay and hybrid. For greenfield deployments, particularly when the cost of physical infrastructure and multi-vendor options are important, a switch-based model will be common. The biggest limitation to this approach is that is currently does not leverage existing L2/3 network equipment.

When rapid deployment over an existing IP network, or when responsibility for the SDN environment is assigned to the server virtualization team, a tunnel-based overlay approach may be appropriate. With this approach the SDN endpoints are virtual devices that are part of the hypervisor environment. The greatest limitations of this approach are that it does not address the overhead of managing the underlying infrastructure, de-bugging problems in an overlay can be complex and it does not support bare metal hosts.

The third approach combines the first two into a hybrid deployment. This allows a non-disruptive migration with a path toward an eventual switch-based design. Gateways link devices that do not natively support overlay tunnels, such as bare metal servers.

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