SDN driven network revolution begins

Infotech Lead India: Ashutosh Zutshi, GM – Sales & marketing, NEC India, says network virtualization enabled by software-defined networking, as exemplified by the new OpenFlow standard, promises far-reaching changes in the ICT world. NEC leads the world in the implementation of this new technology.

For many operators of data centers, especially those offering cloud services, virtualization technology has brought many benefits. Virtualization allows one physical server to act as if it were many machines, and when demand is heavy, many servers can be clustered and act as one computer.

Storage systems have likewise been virtualized, allowing data storage “pools” to be created and allocated on demand, but networking has lagged behind until now, and has been a more static and inflexible component of the data center’s infrastructure.

Open up the Box!

Industry experts say that current networking products are basically closed boxes. Computers are now open in that users are able to write applications for them. Networking hardware is currently a closed inflexible architecture, which cannot be changed or modified by the userData center operators simply use it and cannot optimize it.

The solutions then lies in opening up the hardware used in networks, allowing custom applications to be run on it, increasing its responsiveness, flexibility, and efficiency. Such a network, where the functionality is configured and controlled via software, rather than its physical configuration and deployment, provides SDN.

OpenFlow, an open source SDN protocol, provides a platform on which such an open architecture can run, making networks as flexible as the rest of the data center, and able to respond to the changing demands. For example, a data center housing many tenants may need to change a network’s topology as new tenants are added, or as the demands of existing tenants change.

Go with the (Open) Flow

At the end of 2006, Stanford University’s Professor Nick McKeown proposed an initiative to implement SDN, resulting in the development of the OpenFlow protocol above, which has since been ratified as an inter-manufacturer standard, with the Open Networking Foundation having 89 members as of February 2013.

OpenFlow is “open” in two senses: firstly, it is an open, inter-manufacturer standard, allowing common control of networking equipment, regardless of the maker. Secondly, it “opens the box” in the sense that-it is possible for the user of OpenFlow equipment to get “under the hood” and control the flow of data through the network.

Proven Customer Benefits

Open flow technology brings about considerable savings in capital expenditure and operational expenses (Capex and Opex), as major logistics operator. It is estimated that for a 1,000-server data center, both capital and operational expenditure can be slashed by 50 percent compared to conventional networks.

This technology has great benefits for the health care sector as well. Equipment used for patient diagnosis and treatment is frequently moved, and the different departments using the equipment have varied network security policies, as do the different devices themselves.

Moving or adding such network-connected equipment effectively proves to be extremely Through Openflow when a medical device is connected to the LAN, it is assigned to the appropriate virtual network, and the appropriate policies are automatically applied. This occurs regardless of the LAN port to which the device is connected, thus realizing universal connectivity.

It is being foreseen that future users of SDN will be enterprise-level data centers, and communications carriers. Experts believe latter will see benefits from the savings and advantages to be realized from the new technology. As one example of such benefits, a disaster or any other major event may spike an increase in voice and SMS traffic and a possible overload of the system as callers reassure each other of their safety and keep in contact with each other.

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