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The Current State of Affairs of Software Defined Networking

Guest Post by
Saurav Kanti Chandra, Senior Technology Architect, Engineering Services, Infosys

Defining something by software is not a path breaking concept. We have always been doing this more and more smartly and bringing out the best architecture, design and technology to define an idea into a solution. Then why the world of networking is abuzz with the concept of "Software Defined Networking" (SDN)? The answer is twofold. The first point, SDN is not a single software solution. It is a concept to introduce programmability - a key attributes of software - into a hitherto closed arena of routing and forwarding in a network.  The second point, the timing is great as this is the time of hyper scale growth in data center usage. It can easily relate to a multitude of current day challenges faced in the networks of datacenter, hyper cloud, enterprise, campus and carrier.

In 2009, Kate Green introduced the term "Software Defined Networking" as one of the 10 emerging technologies (popularly known as TR10) in MIT publication "Technology Review (TR)". The context was a standard called OpenFlow,  developed by Stanford computer scientist Nick McKeown and his colleagues, which enables software to define the rules that tell switches and routers how to direct network traffic. Three years down the line, SDN remains firm on the objective of decoupling network traffic processing from the controlling logics and rules, but has extended its armor from OpenFlow to many other case specific strategies across the SDN ecosystem and value chain. There are interesting SDN strategies from proprietary Network Equipment Vendors as well.

The million dollar question in everyone's mind now is what will be the market adoption of various avatars of SDN. OpenFlow, representing SDN from its limited perspective, is the only official standard available and is placed by Gartner in Technology Trigger phase of hype curve in 2011 with less than 1% adoption. However, the Open Networking Summit held in April 2012, showed a huge interest on SDN from industry heavyweights and venture capitalists. IDC has forecasted a growth of SDN market (switching, routing, services & software) from 168 million USD in 2013 to 2 billion USD in 2016.  I think coming six months will be the phase to find the business use cases, different market and solution approaches and a frantic search for the "killer application" which can take some forms of SDN in main stream adoption.

The original problem was the limitation of accessing the flow and routing tables from internet routing. Nevertheless, if the network is abstracted from its topology and can be programmed remotely from a centralized management, it is usable in multitude of scenarios.

Servers have already been evolved to a dynamic and open value chain years ago and have been effectively capitalized by virtualization techniques.  SDN is helping network to follow the footsteps of server world. We like Big Macs.. err.. software because it has tantalizing idea of multi-layered value adds. We are loving software defined networking because the value added layers here are on the network.

Let's join the propel heads of the networking world and co-create the much coveted programmable network platform and much cherished killer application which will bring SDN to main stream adoption.

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