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Software-Defined Networking: What is SDN and Why Do We Need It?

Fundamentally, software-defined networking (SDN) can be defined as managing networks through software controls. In order to make SDN work, you must have an application program interface (API) to properly configure a network.

A virtual network is a software-defined network that is abstracted from the physical network, and relies on it solely for transport. The ultimate result is the ability to fully control networks through software applications, eliminating the need for tedious management activities.

The need for speed and automation within IT organizations makes SDN a strategic solution for businesses seeking to take advantage of an open network technology that brings greater flexibility, cost savings, more opportunities for technology innovations, and improved interoperability.

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Top Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Use Cases

The implementation of SDN solutions is typically brought on by one or more of the following business use cases:

  1. Security

Security breaches have become a dangerous norm, and a major threat to the federal government space. Routine incidences of hacks, data spillage, and lost content are all reasons to evaluate better methods for securing data.

Micro-segmentation, developed as a result of SDN, is a tool for achieving security within the data center using a virtualized, software-based methodology. The proliferation of intercommunications between virtual machines (VMs) within the data center has created a viable attack surface for malicious actors, given that moving laterally is easier once a VM has been subverted.

Enable Strong Security

  • Stop attacks beyond the data center perimeter
  • Eliminate the vulnerability of exposed workloads
  • Achieve network security within the data center

Micro-segmentation eliminates this vulnerability by establishing a barrier around connected VMs using stateful firewalls at each VM’s network interface. This gives you the facility to set strong security controls without requiring traffic to traverse outside the network to a central firewall device and back again, which is inefficient and unsecure.

  1. IT automating IT

IT automation has taken the place of manual technology initiatives in an effort to deliver IT to business expeditiously. Software and automation now drive IT activities through API calls to automate infrastructure access and delivery.

Automating IT is precipitated by the inefficiencies of the traditional approach to spinning up VMs. Getting a VM on a network, secured, and configured with credentials is time consuming. Creating a VM is simple, but putting it on the network can be a tedious process that’s typically carried out by numerous IT organizations, including network, virtualization, and security team members.  Automating the process for getting a VM onto a network using SDN allows the process to be executed on demand, within minutes.

Facilitate IT Automation

  • Deliver IT faster
  • End the need for coordinating disparate technical teams to spin up VMs and related networks
  • Bypass the lack of speed and agility

Given the rise of digital initiatives and mass cloud adoption, end users can bypass a lack of agility and speed by taking advantage of on-demand compute resources, allowing IT organizations to react to events quickly.

  1. Improved Disaster Recovery (DR)

While enhancing overall security posture and enabling automation are critical objectives of SDN, it also has the capacity to significantly improve disaster recovery functions. In the case of a successful breach or unforeseen disaster event, the ability to recover is only as effective as your DR plan and the available tools, which means that seamless failover is critical.

Enhance Disaster Recovery

  • No need to make changes to VM workloads if you need to fail over
  • Easily span a single network across both DR sites
  • Leave behind the unease of weak DR functionalities

SDN capabilities provide the agency a way to stand up a network segment across multiple sites. This enables the ability to move VM workloads from one location to another without having to make changes to them. Traditionally, moving VM workloads would require the need to modify IP addresses of VMs to conform to a different network segment at the DR site. Network virtualization allows you to span the same network across both sites, resulting in the ability to move the workload from one place to another without modifications, making performing failover of workloads simple.

Resolving the Challenges of the Traditional Network

SDN has the power to bring many operational advantages to the IT organization by greatly reducing security vulnerabilities within the data center and streamlining network management activities. Improving security, facilitating agility, and taking advantage of the added technology capabilities SDN brings are all good reasons to evaluate SDN. Organizations now have the forces needed to leave behind the traditional approach in favor of executing networking in an agile, expeditious fashion while ensuring that all workloads are protected.

Want to learn more? Check out our blog post on software-defined networking and how its made it's way into backups!