Our world in 2015 is defined by software. Have you ever thought about how your smart phone or tablet can automatically recompose everything on the screen when you rotate from portrait to landscape whereas your TV would just be sideways? We’ve all seen TV’s used in portrait mode at the shop or the airport for advertising, but why don’t they adjust automatically? The answer is software.
Your TV doesn’t run any (or if it does it’s very primitive) whereas everything about your smartphone and tablet is defined by software, including the shape, size and orientation of the screen. It’s this ability to adapt to different situations and self-configure that makes software defined technology so exciting.
In the world of 2015 our virtual world of computing infrastructure is indistinguishable from the real world. We can create computers, datacentres and networks entirely in software – with performance being increased by doing so.
What this means for service providers is the ability to design, build and change customer networks at the speed of software. No more physical changes or manual updating of equipment configurations. That means potentially huge cost savings and much faster response.
What this means for customers is a more responsive, adaptable and dynamic service from their connectivity service provider; getting more of what you want instead of a standard product.
But what is Software Defined Networking?
Software Defined Networking or ‘SDN’ is the combination of a number of different technologies and concepts being brought together to change how networks work. Much of the technology has evolved from the field of virtual computing. Network Function Virtualisation ‘NFV’ is the service provider component of SDN that allows for the creation of common network elements such as routers, firewalls, and application optimisation controllers at the touch of a button.
These ‘functions’ operate as virtual machines on standard Intel computing hardware. This computing capability is increasingly being installed directly in the switches that still make up the physical plumbing of the network taking away the need for dedicated hardware to be deployed per-network-function. Network functions can also be deployed directly from within service provider compute clouds.
This is then combined with new software which automates the configuration and management of the network removing the human element and the static nature of network control and configuration. For the customer this ability to create network elements and configure them automatically is then extended through simple, easy-to-use web interfaces where the customer can input their business requirements and have them translated automatically into working network configurations, which can then be implemented automatically and instantly. SDN allows users to “create” networks, but only when the underlying physical network is designed to support SDN.
Service providers all over the world are looking at how to upgrade their networks to best take advantage of SDN. The real goal is not simply delivering cheaper network operations, but a complete reimagining of how network connectivity service is provided and used.
Imagine being able to redesign your WAN in real-time through a simple web-based self-service portal. Or imagine your network automatically reconfiguring itself based on time of day and traffic patterns in the same way your smart phone knows to change what’s on the screen when it’s turned sideways!
This is the future of SDN. It will mean as big of a change to network and connectivity services as the smartphone was to mobile communications. It’s a new world, a better connected, smarter world, brought to you by the power of SDN.