Reasons to Adopt SDNs

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Reasons to Adopt SDNs

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Demand Is There

The key drivers behind the need for SDN—from cloud computing to virtualized environments to greater mobility—aren't going to go away. If anything, their prevalence will only grow. The rest of the data center—from servers to storage—already are adapting to the rapidly growing trends. The networks, which quickly are becoming the key bottlenecks in the data center, need to, as well. Through SDN, secure connections can be created and configured quickly, reducing the time needed from days to minutes.

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Less Expensive Networks

Traditional networks are not cheap, what with the switches, routers and proprietary management software that manages the intelligence within the network. SDN promises networks that are less costly—the functions on the control plane are run centrally through a relatively inexpensive server, and with the intelligence located elsewhere, the switches and routers can be less sophisticated than current hardware.

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Greater Security

As with virtualized servers, software-defined networks can be partitioned, enabling organizations to send sensitive data without worrying about security. In addition, security can be added into the network via software, rather than requiring new hardware.

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The protocol has been in the works for several years, and essentially separates the programming of routers and switches from underlying hardware. OpenFlow can manage traffic throughout switches and routers from various vendors, and is supported by the OpenFlow Networking Foundation, which has more than 70 members. Those include the largest networking vendors, including Cisco, HP and Juniper, as well as smaller startups. In addition, large Web-based companies—such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo—that are looking for ways to make their data centers better performing and more efficient also are members, as are top-tier data center players like Intel, IBM and Oracle.

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Major Vendors Embrace

All the top networking players, from Cisco to Juniper to Extreme and beyond, are offering sometimes disparate views of SDN, but all are bringing it into their portfolios, both with wider adoption of OpenFlow as well as through in-house technologies. They're doing this even though it may conflict with the parts of their businesses that make those more expensive proprietary switches, routers and software.

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Multitude of Case Uses

According to some experts, there are myriad areas in which SDNs can help in the data center, from enabling cloud environments to grow to managing such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to high-performance computing (HPC) and big data needs.

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Reasons to Be Cautious

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Lots of New, Small Companies

While larger networking vendors like Cisco, HP and Juniper are embracing SDNs, the market right now is rife with smaller startups looking to bring capabilities to the market. Those include such companies as Nicira, Big Switch Networks, Vyata and Vello Systems, and there promises to be more on the way. Some of these companies are gaining traction, but as with any emerging technology, organizations want to be extra careful in who they sign on with.

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OpenFlow and SDN Are Still Fairly Immature

Though SDN has been talked about for more than a year, and OpenFlow is gaining support from vendors large and small alike, they're still relatively new. During a discussion at the Structure 2012 event in June, Kenneth Duda, CTO and founder of Arista Networks, which supports SDNs, said that currently, he could find few cases in which OpenFlow 1.0 works well enough to be a good fit.

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