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What you need to know about software-defined networking

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a set of technologies designed to help companies get the best performance out of their network infrastructure.

While there are those that still claim that SDN won’t improve the performance of smaller organizations, there are, in reality, major benefits to be had for much smaller companies.

SDN has two major advantages for any company wanting to maximize its networking investment – rapid reconfiguration and the separation of management and transportation.

Traditional network routers and switches put network transport ports and management functions in the same box (even if some have split the management communications out into a separate “out of band” network).

The practical impact of this is that the management and control aspects of the network can be updated without having to replace and re-plug all of the network cables in data closets.

Rapid reconfiguration

Update speed isn’t limited to hardware in SDN. The essence of the software-defined network is its ability to redefine the traffic flowing across each port through commands from the controller.

Those commands don’t require operator intervention; they can be programmed to create virtual networks, assign them to physical ports, then tear them down and free the ports according to the needs of virtual servers or changing network traffic patterns.

Smaller organizations need flexibility, too

The majority of SDN products are still geared toward the top end of town, but savvy administrators of smaller organizations can at least start laying the groundwork for SDN adoption into their IT architectures. Moreover, while SDN offers enterprises the flexibility they need to handle high user loads, smaller organizations have no less need for flexibility within their networks.

Firstly, they need to maximize the effectiveness of their network spending to achieve the best possible bit flow through each network segment. Open standards like OpenFlow are behind SDN products that are rapidly coming within the price-range of mid-size entities.

What this means is that they no longer need fear missing out on everything SDN can provide them due to the cost of admission.

Virtualizing servers on your network, for example, can greatly increase your network’s capacity, while less hardware means reduced costs for rebuild, configuration, maintenance and management. Also, understanding your network configuration inside and out will give you a strong idea of how your network is running and what you can successfully automate using SDN.

Finally, staying up to date with the latest virtualization and cloud technology will give you a better idea of how to maximize SDN’s potential benefits.