There’s a lot of conversation around software defined networking in the enterprise these days. However, there also seems to be a lot of confusion accompanying SDN.

Some of the confusion arises from vendors that consider SDN as a technology instead of as architecture.

Firms considering an SDN implementation need to conduct a thorough evaluation of their SDN solution options.

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which is associated with the development and standardization of SDN, points out that SDN is not a technology, but rather ad architecture. SDN decouples the network control and forwarding functions. This enables the network control to be directly programmable and make the underlying infrastructure abstracted from applications and network services.

Some of the main opportunities associated with SDN include:

  • Support for dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual networks
  • Easier administration of configuration and provisioning of network
  • Better traffic engineering due to end-to-end view of the network

Evaluating your options

As part of the SDN plan, companies need to identify vendors whose SDN solutions the company will evaluate.

Organization need to determine whether it will need a complete SDN solution from a single vendor of it the company will by components from different vendors.

Organizations need to consider the following:

Solution architecture – Examine issues such which components of the solution the vendor provides and which comes from a partner. Find out how much control is centralized in the SDN controller. Determine what protocols are used, the level of abstraction provided by the controller’s northbound API and what solutions support high availability.

Evaluate the SDN solution on its ability to tackle SDN opportunities that IT has identified.

SDN controller – Determine is controllers have a modular architecture that will enable the addition of new functionalities at a later date. Find out how the controller’s architecture enables scalability, high availability and performance.

SDN switches – Examine which of the vendor’s switches support SDN and how the support is implemented. For instance, do the vendor’s switches support OpenFlow? Which version is supported and what are the optional features?

Find out if the switches are pure SDN switches or hybrid switches. If they are hybrid, find out how the SDN portion of the switch interacts with the traditional potion of the switch.

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