January 24, 2013

A different take on Software Defined Networks

Software Defined Networks (SDN) are here to stay, but in a different form from what many people might be thinking. Until recently the industry has been focused on just the technical details but not on the value that SDN can bring to the table. The notion that SDN is just for data centers or just for service providers is simply not true. SDN provides a lot of value to the Enterprise – from their data centers down to the mobile and wireless edge. This is what we, at Enterasys, focus on in the context of our OneFabric architecture and OneFabric Control Center:

  • What benefits are associated with a SDN deployment?
  • How can our customers deploy SDN today?
  • How can our partners and other vendors leverage our open SDN architecture to provide new and differentiated services and solutions?

The early days of SDN focused on implementation details like the OpenFlow protocol (for the Southbound API) and created a myth that there are capital savings (CapEx) associated with the technology. However, our experience with SDNs has shown that the operational cost savings (OpEx) that can be realized are considerably more significant. Not only does SDN allow administrators to create new services, but it also makes the administration of the overall network considerably more efficient. CapEx savings have been realized via the use of less expensive switching equipment, but network scaling quickly makes these savings illusionary.  The underlying requirements of the data plane in SDN are scaling at a rapid rate in terms of flows (a key element of a SDN architecture) – much higher than any of today’s commodity ASICs can handle. Only custom flow- based ASIC designs like our CoreFlow2 can address those requirements.

We see the main benefits of SDNs are clearly the OpEx savings which our customers are already experiencing today. SDN is all about making the network more programmable to address business benefits such as:

  • Improved network efficiency through centralized management and better service control across the whole network fabric for any device, user and application so that a high and consistent user experience can be achieved, with compelling OpEx savings
  • Improved IT agility through fast and reliable application services from the virtualized data center to the mobile edge
  • Providing advanced analytics of all resources so the organization can easily monitor and control these resources and make strategic business decisions.

SDN is really about a programmatic interface (aka the Northbound API – typically XML) into the network fabric that allows network administrators, other IT teams and applications to provision new services on the fly.

SDN services include:

  • Network virtualization beyond only  vSwitch integration
  • New service provisioning – in an orchestrated (Enterasys’ approach) or overlay approach (a lot of SDN startups focus on the  data center)
  • Traffic engineering – where this might be the only use case where a southbound API like OpenFlow would  make sense

Other services like load balancing will follow as we continue to develop new and innovate SDN applications that meet the emerging requirements of our customers. The benefits of SDNs are operational/functional and are tied to these new services. A higher degree of agility, new services, lower operational cost and a simplified network operation and design is the result.

Enterasys is providing solutions today which serve as examples of new service provisioning in an SDN context:

  • DCM – Data Center Manager orchestrates physical and virtual networks in an automated fashion
  • Fusion SDN Connect – an integration service that allows systems to automatically provision services and policies as well as real time tracking of connected devices and users all via the interconnect with management and security systems like Microsoft SCCM, custom CMDB, Palo Alto, Avaya or Siemens Enterprise Communications and UC among others
  • MDM Connect – going beyond SDN Connect, an integration with Mobile Device Management systems for automated service provisioning for managed mobile devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD)

In summary, at Enterasys we believe SDNs should address practical needs to create a dynamic and agile network infrastructure aimed at the deployment of new services through common APIs. Increased network reliability, simplicity and security are the result of a solid SDN architecture. This results in a consistent user experience coupled with compelling OpEx savings. Last but not least, device, user, service and application visibility coupled with advanced analytics allow organizations to make faster and more strategic business decisions in order to stay relevant.

Expect more to follow from us on SDN and our unique architecture that is a deployable, hybrid approach which scales much more efficiently than the centralized approaches that are currently being deployed today.



About The Contributor:
Markus NispelVice President Solutions Architecture and Innovation

Markus Nispel is the Vice President Solutions Architecture and Innovation at Extreme Networks. Working closely together with key customers his focus is the strategic solution development across all technologies provided by Extreme. In his previous role he was responsible as the Chief Technology Strategist and VP Solutions Architecture for the Enterasys Networks solutions portfolio and strategy, namely NAC Network Access Control, SDN Software Defined Networks, DCM Data Center Management, MDM Mobile Device Management Integration, OneFabric, OneFabric Connect and OneFabric Data Center as well as the network management strategy. This position is tied to his previous role in Enterasys as Director Technology Marketing and as a member of the Office of the CTO. In addition to this role he advises key accounts on a worldwide basis in strategic network decisions. Before its activity for Enterasys Markus Nispel was active as system Engineer at Cabletron Systems. Markus Nispel studied at the university of applied sciences in Dieburg and graduaded 1996 as Dipl. – Engineer for communications technology. He collected first professional experience at E-Plus Mobile Communications within the group of network optimization of their DCS cellular mobile network.

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