April 19, 2013

Software, the “S” in SDN

It seems that when we think of SDN, software defined networking, we often separate the discussion into two primary categories: the software of the control plane and the hardware that forwards network traffic.  But as SDN continues to evolve, it is becoming clear that the software component is actually much bigger than just the control plane and actually has an important role to play beyond the controller at the device level on the network.

There has been quite a bit of discussion in the industry around the potential of networking equipment being commoditized in an SDN deployment.  Let’s dig into that a bit deeper.  In order for networking switches to be able to perform at scale with all the reliability needed for demanding networks and data centers, there is functionality that must exist at the device level.   Functionality such as hitless failover, link aggregation and self-healing automatic process restart must be handled at the equipment level and all these features and attributes are enabled by software.  By leveraging an industry proven Networking Operating System, such as ExtremeXOS, network operators can gain all the benefits of SDN while also ensuring their ‘forwarding plane’ operates at the level that is required of today’s most demanding applications.  These things are nothing new, we have been doing them for years.

When you think about it, many of the core ideas in SDN, like centralized control, are also things that we have been doing for years. ExtremeXOS has long had open APIs allowing central control and integration with security and other appliances. Ridgeline and IDM allow central identity and policy management – not to mention Ridgeline, our network management system.

Regardless of whether or not you will be using SDN right away you will want a network operating system that is resilient, robust and modular with a proven ability to function well in highly virtualized environments. Well documented APIs and advanced scripting and automation capabilities are nice to have as well.

It is also important to consider interoperability and how well a particular vendor plays with others. At Extreme Networks, we are dedicated to open standards and interoperability. We show this every day in all the networks we are deployed in and we have shown this in the world of SDN with our functional partnerships with companies like NEC, with their ProgrammableFlow  Controller and BigSwitch Networks, with their Big Virtual Switch and Big Tap applications.

In fashion, if you stick around long enough you can see trends come and go. Ties go back and forth from skinny to fat. Hemlines go up and down and who knows, the mullet may even come back. Other things, like a good pair of wingtips, are, like a good network operating system, timeless.

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Extreme Marketing Team

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