Leading up to this week’s Open Networking Summit (ONS), one recurring theme we’ve been hearing from networking vendors, prospective customers, and technology consultants are different variations of the same question about the What and How of SDN:
As we work with customers and use cases we’ve realized that the ‘what’ is best characterized by defining what is occurring on customer networks — and looking at it from that perspective — we’ve defined Network Virtualization as the “What”. The rational for this is, regardless of the customer use case or vendor solutions, that the highest order of what customers are doing is virtualization of their networks. Much like customers having virtualized servers, or virtualizing their storage and desktops.
The next level question is “How do you virtualize the network?” We define this as Software-defined Networking or SDN because SDN is the collection of hardware and software that enables network virtualization. OpenFlow happens to be one of the many “Hows.”
When we speak with customers, we encourage them to start with the business problem and identify what can be solved with network virtualization first. The decision on which of many “Hows” are best suited to solve their problem comes later.
What does this mean to OpenFlow? A couple of things:
- Remember that OpenFlow is a technology, a protocol — it’s just one of many ways you can virtualize the network.
- OpenFlow is an important approach to SDN — but may not be the answer for every use case.
- Research all SDN technologies — or course, SDNCentral is a great starting point to learn — and identify a short list of technologies like OpenFlow or VXLAN, that may help solve your problem.
One of the great things about the change in the networking industry is that there’s little debate on the ‘What’ (Network Virtualization) and lots of innovation happening to the ‘How’ (SDN and OpenFlow).
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