Software-defined networking (SDN) has been touted as the future of networking in an increasingly decentralized environment.

SDN is a network management approach that uses programming to create an efficient network configuration that improves network performance and monitoring. SDN makes network control directly programmable and abstracts the underlying infrastructure from applications and network services.

Using SDN as a management platform via application platform interfaces (APIs) or command line interface (CLI) automates network management tasks.

Benefits of SDN

Using SDN has many benefits including more flexibility in network management and the ability to easily implement security policies at a granular level. Other benefits include:

Vendor Neutral: Using open standards, SDN simplifies network design and operation. SDN controllers provide instructions, rather than using multiple, vendor specific devices and protocols or proprietary software.

Centrally Managed: SDN uses centralized controllers, thus centralizing network intelligence. This enables a global view of the network.

Directly Programmable: By separating network control from forwarding functions, it is directly programmable. Programming can be used for automation which ensures consistency.

Agile: By abstracting control from forwarding, network admins can adjust traffic flow network-wide dynamically.

Programmatically Configured: Network managers can write automated SDN programs that quickly and dynamically configure, manage, optimize and secure network resources.

Visibility: A centralized SDN network management configuration can help with network analytics and visibility because it can view the entire network environment.

Security: In an SDN environment, it’s easier to manage and install software-based security tools such as encryption, network monitoring and virtual firewalls.

Who’s Using It?

In 2017, Network World conducted a survey of 294 networking professionals and found that 18% were already using SDN and 49% were considering or actively piloting SDN. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated that the SDN market will grow to $13.8 billion by 2021. They believe that SDN has entered the early mainstream stage of its development.

Major players on the bleeding edge, such as Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Google promote the benefits of SDN and are helping to drive the development and refinement of the standards for it, which is helping to drive growth.

Other Uses for SDN

SDN is not just for network management, it’s also being used in wide area networking (WAN), managing Internet of Things (IoT) devices and micro-segmentation. Using SDN for WAN, known as SD-WAN, SDN technology is used to manage geographically dispersed locations, such as branch offices located across the state or around the country.

Using an SD-WAN approach can save businesses money they would spend on customized WAN hardware to accelerate network traffic. Managing the increasing number of IoT connected devices is made easier using a software-based network management overlay. And, for micro-segmentation, it’s possible to separate a network connection and provision different security settings depending on the type of network traffic.

Is It Right for Your Business?

The best way to know whether SDN will help your business or add unnecessary complication is to learn more about it. Every organization is different and SDN can be used many different ways and is very customizable. Learning more about the options that are available, the newer technology that’s coming and the standards as they’re being refined.