While there are many organizations that have implemented SDN solutions in their environment and others are in the process of testing a solution, the many benefits provided by SDN should help push the holdouts to go for SDN implementation in the near future, especially cloud service providers.
The Benefits of Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Apart from the advantages highlighted below, the biggest benefit of adopting SDN is that it provides a company with the ability to model its physical networking environment into software, which, in turn, helps in reducing the overall CAPEX and OPEX. Here are some specific benefits SDN can offer:
First, software-defined networking does not require a huge investment. There are even a few SDN products that are free. And while you’ll need to pay a license fee for some SDN solutions such as VMware’s NSX, there are a few that ship with the operating system itself, including Microsoft’s Hyper-V Network Virtualization.
And since SDN supports Layer 1 through Layer 3 networking models, there’s no need to buy expensive networking devices. In other words, the use of SDN in a production environment can help reduce the costs involved in purchasing expensive hardware.
In a physical environment, the isolation for the customer workloads requires configuring VLANs on separate networking devices, including routers, switches, etc. Since most of the networking is done at the SDN, it is easy for service providers to isolate the customer virtual machines from other customers by using various isolation methods available in the SDN.
Physical vs. Virtual Networking Management
Physical environments necessitate collaboration among different teams to get a task done. For example, if you require some modification at a physical networking device, it would often take a considerable amount of time and teamwork in most organizations before the task can be accomplished.
Software-defined networking provides you the ability to control virtual and physical networking by using a central management tool, sometimes known as a single pane of glass. A virtual administrator can process the necessary changes without needing to collaborate with different teams.
Managing Virtual Packet Forwarding
SDN can help you forward the virtual packets to a software or physical device running on the network. For example, if a virtual machine needs to access the internet, it becomes easy for virtual administrators to provide the necessary configuration to the virtual machine with minimal effort.
Since SDN helps in virtualizing most of the physical networking devices, it becomes easy to perform an upgrade for one piece rather than needing to do it for several devices. SDN also supports snapshotting the configuration, which helps you quickly recover from any failures caused by the upgrades.
Isolation and Traffic Control
Data center managers can benefit from centralizing the networking control using a central management tool. At the same time, SDN provides several isolation mechanisms such as configuring ACLs and firewalls at the virtual machine NIC level. You can also define the traffic rules using the SDN management console, which helps in providing full control over the network traffic.
Since SDN is software-based, it is easy to use SDN API references for vendors to extend the capabilities of an SDN solution by developing applications to control the behavior of networking traffic.
Central Networking Management Tool
SDN can deliver all your networking needs in one product, enabling you to control every piece of an organization’s network using a central management tool.
Network administrators often find it difficult to manage a physical router’s configuration, and it quickly becomes time-consuming and tedious when more than one physical router needs to be managed. SDN simplifies the management of physical routers by providing the management APIs in the SDN console.
This article was updated in March 2021 by Kyle Guercio.