SDN changing the way we network

More IT elements, applications now network aware, ONS panelists say

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SANTA CLARA – SDN’s impact is profoundly changing the way users operate their networks.

Databases and distributed systems can now participate in networking, and workloads can be segmented for scale, participants at the 2016 Open Networking Summit said here this week. Network management is simplified, and application interactions are more intuitive and network-aware.

“Networking is way more than connectivity,” said Pere Monclus, CTO and co-founder of PLUMgrid, speaking on a panel at the conference.

EBay, another panel participant, started its SDN journey in 2011 looking for a way to segment workloads in order to scale. Now, the online auctioneer is looking at making each application its own segment and “SDN will help us there,” said Ashwin Raveendrann, senior member of technical services at EBay.

EBay runs its cloud on OpenStack and Raveendrann said the open source orchestration framework was superior to cobbling together many proprietary solutions. Indeed, open source was cited by panel members and other speakers at the conference as key to opening up the value of multivendor SDNs.

“Open source is conflated with innovation,” said panel speaker Martin Casado, executive vice president and general manager of VMware’s Network and Security Business.

“Open source is a nice way to learn about the problems, to understand root causes and the (events) behind them,” said Teemu Koponen, a software engineer at cloud service start-up Styra. “It’s a pretty nice lens to gain a vantage point without interacting with vendors right away.”

Despite the progress to date in SDN, there’s more to come, the panelists agreed. Applications will take on more of the network configuration duties through policy, while SDN technologies will become thinner and lighter, and offer more variety in the way they abstract the physical infrastructure.

“We need new abstractions to move application anywhere we want,” Raveendrann said. “We want to write applications that do not need to know the physical infrastructure.”

Koponen said the OpenStack Congress project is an example of how to codify policies for applications so that SDN can become a simpler abstraction layer between the application and infrastructure. Monclus believes transforming applications into services through lifecycle policies will lighten SDN abstractions.

The danger lies in making SDN more complex through added features.

“The more things there are to configure, the more things you can screw up,” Koponen says. “SDN was meant to simplify the infrastructure and if we fail at that, we have failed miserably.”

This story, "SDN changing the way we network" was originally published by Network World.

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