An In-Depth Look at Software-Defined Networking

Conclusion ... Thoughts on the Future of SDN

Looking at all of the choices that companies have right now to source “programmable” network technologies, you could say that the future of software-defined networking is already here.

However, that's kind of simplistic – like saying, for example, that the future of the cloud is “already here.” Cloud services are robust, but won't they continue to evolve?

Some of the things to look for with SDN are more of the popular “plug and play” network technologies that we already see in nascent NaaS architectures: for example, visual widgets to add things like firewall as a service or parental control as a service to a network.

Will the companies of the future subscribe to their networks, instead of building them in server rooms? In some cases, yes. In others, probably not. Certainly, the convenience of this method will stand out to busy startups.

One of the exciting things about SDN is its ability to simplify network design. If you order these things through a subscription, as a user, you may be able to see them as more transparent units – going back to that visual dashboard example, you can see them in a more visual way.

Lots of tech professionals have found that sometimes it's easier to visualize or imagine how technology works when it's ordered from a vendor (with good support) than when it's in some sort of a black box system in a hardware rack.

In other cases, software as a service shields the user from having to understand the true mechanics and what's behind the sheet. It frees them up to use the technologies without getting stuck in a loop trying to figure out why they do what they do. On the other side of the coin, it also can hinder someone's access to change if it abstracts the knowledge that they need to control the technology. That's why terms like “vendor lock-in” are so important when you're looking at something like an SDN service-level agreement.

Let's talk a little about IoT – the internet of things is now taking off in a big way. It's one of those new boundaries in IT. But SDN actually has quite a bit of application to the idea of IoT-connected devices in a very distributed and chaotic network.

With centralized control, it may be easier to design some of those big peer-to-peer or ad hoc networks that function in an IoT environment. With that in mind, software-defined networking has something to offer the engineers that are currently working on brand-new systems based on some different models than what we've been accustomed to in the past.

Going boldly into the 21st century means understanding how technologies like software-defined networking are going to be applied in enterprise environments, and what it's going to mean to really effectively manage a next-generation network.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.

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