Back in April, Verizon announced plans to adopt software-defined networking, dropping network hardware like routers and switches for a software solution. Two things stuck out to us – Verizon’s Shawn Hakl likened software-defined networks (SDNs) to the Linux and data center virtualization movements of ten years ago, and Verizon isn’t the only telecom carrier that’s making the switch. Both AT&T and Level 3 Communications have spoken of the benefits of using an SDN. So how do these networks function, and in what ways do users benefit from an SDN?

How Does Software-Defined Networks Operate?

A software-defined networking solution takes the hardware out of network control by adding software controls on the outskirts of a network. From there, a connection between the client and the server is established, the software controls drive traffic as routers and switches would have, and the SDN is divided into two systems:

  1. The Control Plane – Managing the configuration of the SDN, letting network requirements, like QoS levels, drive decision-making.
  2. The Data Plane – Sends traffic to its end-point destination while configuring connection paths.

What Makes Software-Defined Networking Useful?

As with so many of today’s tech innovations, security is one of the main benefits of software-defined networking. SDNs can drop suspicious connect requests, like DoS attacks. SDN switches can function similarly to a firewall, and the SDN can also send suspicious traffic to higher-layer security controls. These features make it easier for you to protect your network from different kinds of security threats.

Additionally, SDNs are cost-efficient, as the costs associated with purchasing hardware routers and switches can accumulate. Service levels for existing software routers and switches is also far less significant.

On top of that, software-defined networks can respond to app requirements on the fly and ensure service quality remains consistent on the network. SDNs also provide the right routes for your data as it travels across your network, boost performance.

Is Software-Defined Networking Set to Grow?

Not only are big-time telecom carriers like Verizon and AT&T embracing the benefits of software-defined networking, hardware providers are also buying in as well. Companies like IBM, Cisco, vmware, NETGEAR, and Citrix are also providing SDN solutions. These trends are set to boost traffic in the cloud security sector, which we’ll talk about in the near future.

Should You Care About Software-Defined Networking?

We’ve spent considerable time with clients assessing and implementing cloud computing solutions over the last few years, and the trends with software-defined networking (SDN) are similar in a few ways. The technologies came from an interest in cost savings, providing traffic setup, teardown, and augmenting flexibility. And just like with the cloud, enterprise organizations run the risk of letting “the next big thing” get in the way of their top priority – meeting their business and technical requirements.

When all is said and done, if a software-defined network isn’t the solution that meets those needs, why would you use it? Any solution, software-defined or otherwise, should provide the security, ease of access, equipment flexibility and network connectivity your enterprise organization needs. You’ll be able to choose the right vendor or network solution if you base your decision on those factors.

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