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It can be argued that there’s never been a time when innovation was needed more in data center networks.

 

The increased reliance on information served up from cloud or enterprise data centers has made it vital to bring new security, performance management, privacy, traffic segregation, service-level agreement and revenue generation applications to the network.

 

Software-defined networking (SDN) and the Intel® Open Network Platform (ONP) help to open the network to this innovation, which brings us to the last in a series of blog posts about SDN use cases.  This one focuses on the way this new network paradigm helps to simplify network application / service deployment.

 

SDN’s primary innovation is that it separates a network’s control plane from its data plane in order to centralize packet processing in a software controller. That makes it easier to deploy network-wide policies or services because the controller has a comprehensive perspective on data flows, including congestion information, QoS, security etcetera.

 

Logically, the SDN controller sits above the infrastructure layer, but below an application layer with standardized APIs that allow easy integration of business applications.

 

Thus, applications that used to require standalone hardware and could only see the traffic passing through them, can now be run on a server and can manage an entire network using information available from the controller.

 

It's the disaggregation of the network into these logical layers that makes this possible. Intel has taken that concept one step further with its Open Network Platform announcement, which opens up key elements at each layer so that any OEM can leverage this infrastructure in the development of an SDN application. Take a look at www.intel.com/onp to get more information about ONP.

 

Applications bring added user features to a network, but also impact the manageability and performance of the network.  SDN lays the foundation for companies like Intel to open up the network for this innovation.

In recent months, I’ve been to several events where software-defined networking has been the main topic of discussion.  Now that I think about it, all of those events have been in the Silicon Valley, the epicenter of SDN.

 

Recently, I left that bubble to go to Interop in Las Vegas - and I’m finding that SDN is a big deal but it’s not the only thing going on in networking.

 

Of course, I talked about SDN because I’m focused that way.  But the overall show was about all of the topics that networking managers are concerned with like application intelligence, staffing, cloud vendor selection and how to kill Spanning Tree.  In fact, my recent search of the Interop site for the acronym SDN turned up only 19 references.

 

Why is this important?  While there is a huge amount of fire behind SDN in certain circles, the market at large has only a passing acquaintance with the technology.  I felt that Interop was a great opportunity for me to educate the wider audience on the benefits of the technology.

 

I took advantage of that opportunity by giving an overview of SDN technology and why it’s important and then discussing the Intel solution in a bit more detail.  This includes top-of-rack switch reference design called the Open Network Platform, the software elements and open APIs we have for OEMs dubbed Open Network Software and finally the Intel Ethernet Switch FM6000 series, the low-latency 10G/40G switch IC that is at the heart of the entire solution.

 

With this solution, we want to unleash the power of SDN for data center networking. One key step is education and that’s why the presentation at Interop was important.

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