November 25, 2013

Five Key Criteria for adaptable SDN Wi-Fi

Much of the software defined networking (SDN) discussions have mainly been focused on the wired infrastructure, but what about the Wi-Fi part of the network?

Overview

This blog will identify five key areas to scrutinize when considering SDN for Wi-Fi solution:

  1. Unified Wired/Wi-Fi (Management) for centralize decisions, distributed traffic –  In general SDN separates the control plane traffic from the data plane traffic in order to separate and centralize decisions about where and/or how the infrastructure will actually send the traffic. A well-integrated management system must support this separation and must support both wired and wireless for SDN to really work.

  1. Programmability – An SDN application programing interface (API) is an interface into the main network management system (NMS) providing the tools and services necessary to allow various third party applications such as MDM, Web Filtering, analytics, and so forth to interact with the main NMS. This centralizes all the tools and applications being used to run the network thereby reducing cost and complexity for IT and providing a better experience for the user.

  1. Mobile and BYOD devices – Devices are constantly on the move and users expect a consistent user experience regardless of from where they are connecting. Connectivity must be ubiquitous and the rules for connecting must be able to transparently and dynamically change as the user/device roams throughout the connected world.

  1. Wi-Fi dynamic traffic patterns – Based on several factors, such as meeting compliance mandates, traffic engineering, security, and distributed office locations the best data path for Wi-Fi traffic changes dynamically.

  1. SDN for the wired and Wi-Fi network – Wi-Fi is mission critical for the business, it is no longer a nice to have; it is required. For SDN to really work for the “entire” network it must also include the Wi-Fi part of the network.

Unified Wired/Wi-Fi for centralized decisions, distributed traffic

The huge growth in mobility and BYOD has driven the huge growth in Wi-Fi. This makes it extremely important that the management system can support both the wired and Wi-Fi infrastructure from within a single management console. This will maintain consistency between your Wi-Fi and wired network, and eliminate duplication of efforts within IT.  This will also save money through the consolidation of duplicate management systems into one, and by maintaining IT headcount at the same level.  Some questions to help you when looking at SDN management solutions:

  1. Does the vendor provide a unified management system where network decisions for both the wired and wireless network are made centrally and with decisions on data handling being made at the network device?

  2. Does the management system provide consistent management from the datacenter to the edge of the network?

  3. Does the management system include a published API for third party integration?

  4. Does the vendor have an established list of partners already using the API? And does this continue to grow?

Programmability

An API into the management system is a critical component for a “complete” SDN deployment. An API like OneFabric Connect is an interface into the main network management system (NMS) providing the tools and services necessary to allow various third party applications to interact with the main NMS. This modular approach to network management helps each management application developer save money and development time by focusing on the areas that are specific to their business. For instance a network management solution like NetSight™ focuses on network and infrastructure management while a management solution like Mobile Iron® is focused on mobile device management (MDM). Some questions to help you when looking at SDN management solutions:

  1. Is the API based on standards using well defined and understood interfaces into the API such as XML, SOAP, or REST?

  2. Does the vendor provide sample code, documentation, and software development kits (SDKs) to make the process of integration quick and easy?

  3. Is there a single API for both the wired and Wi-Fi network?

  4. Does the vendor have experience offering an API that:

    1. Offers professional services and can do the actual application integration

    2. Will help you do the integration yourself

    3. Provides support prior to, during and after the integration

Mobility and BYOD Devices

Mobile and BYOD devices are constantly on the move and users expect a consistent user experience regardless of from where they are connecting. Connectivity must be ubiquitous and the rules for connecting must be able to transparently and dynamically change as the user/device roams throughout the connected world.

  1. Are network and user rules / policies centrally configured and stored and then distributed throughout the network?

  2. Are network and user rules / policies configured centrally and then distributed out into both the wired and wireless network?

  3. Can user rules / policy dynamically adapt as the user roams throughout the connected world? And can they change with user/device, time of day, the location that the connection is coming from, and/or protocol?

Wi-Fi Dynamic Traffic Control

Based on several factors, such as meeting compliance mandates, traffic engineering, security, and distributed office locations the best data path for Wi-Fi traffic changes dynamically. For some traffic it might be best to keep it localized to the access point (AP), while in other cases a centralized traffic approach would be the best way to go or in some cases the ability to simultaneously do both should provide this required flexibility. Decisions or policies on how or where the traffic is forwarded must be centrally configured and then distributed out to the network devices thereby allowing the devices to make the decisions on traffic forwarding.

  1. Does the Wi-Fi solution simultaneously manage traffic at the access point; centralize it, and a combination of both on a single SSID?

  2. Can access points run independent of a controller?

SDN for the wired and Wi-Fi network

For SDN to really work for the “entire” network it must include the Wi-Fi part of the network. Wi-Fi is no longer a toy or something off on the side that is a nice to have. It is a required part of the overall business network and users demand that it be available all the time, transparent, and provides the same feature benefit of the wired network.

  1. Does the vendor have a wired SDN solution?

  2. Is the vendor a recognized leader in SDN?

  3. Are SDN products available today? Can the vendor demonstrate their SDN solution?

  4. Has the vendor included their Wi-Fi solution as part of their overall SDN strategy?

A Final Important Question to Consider

Okay so there are six questions to ask. Does the vendor have years of industry recognized experience and is the vendor going to be around and be committed to a long term relationship focused on ensuring the success of your business?

For questions or help in planning your network management requirements,  SDN API, or Wi-Fi deployments please contact us and we will be happy to help.

To share thoughts and collaborate please follow me on Twitter @sferguso and I will follow you back.

About The Contributor:
Scott FergusonWireless Product Marketing Manager

Scott Ferguson is a Product Marketing Manager at Extreme Networks with 20+ years of domestic and international experience in the computer and data communications industry. He has held numerous senior level positions in engineering, product management, and product marketing for start-ups, fortune 500 companies, and business turnarounds in both carrier and enterprise focused businesses. Scott is an industry leader driving hardware and software products to financial success and market recognition, in: security, management systems, network infrastructure, and applications. Scott has held senior level positions at companies that include Apani Networks, Avaya, Colubris Networks, Nortel Networks, and Xyplex Networks. Scott has also been a consultant for companies helping them achieve their business goals through his strategic / business planning, new product introduction, implementation, and marketing skills.

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