What Is SDN and Why Are Enterprises Adopting This Approach


4 min read


Learn more about software-defined networking (SDN) and its various models, the infrastructure differences from traditional networks and network management, and why enterprises are adopting this approach.

In a nutshell, software-defined networking is a breakthrough technology that completely changes the paradigm of how networks have been used in the past and a great opportunity for enterprises to digitally transform themselves. But first, let’s start with what SDN definitely isn’t.


Getting back to the basics

As the name implies, a traditional or legacy network is made up of network devices – routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, and others – all of which have their own function. Everything is built into the device, with vendor-specific hardware, firmware, software, controls, drivers, and APIs.

Each device has its own kind of brain that can communicate with other neighboring devices, extract information and create databases. This brain is called a control plane. It controls and selects the best paths from these databases and passes them to the device’s body.

The body of the device is the data plane, which passes data packets from one device to another. It always listens to the control plane and its instructions using forwarding tables.

Each device in this process must be configured, managed, and controlled individually. As the network scales, the number of devices and the complexity of controlling them grows exponentially. Soon it becomes unmanageable.


SDN cuts previous ties with physical devices

A software-defined network physically separates the control plane from the data plane. And once the two are split, the resulting network is much more flexible.

All control planes now reside on a single central unit, the controller. This centralized user interface communicates with the network devices and tells them how to route traffic. The controller has absolute control and an overview of the entire topology without the need for additional hardware. It is vendor-agnostic and can be easily automated. The data plane remains in the devices, as the devices now only forward the data packets with instructions coming from the controller.

The way the controller communicates with the data plane is defined by OpenFlow, an open standard. It allows the SDN controller to convert the information received from the applications into flow entries, which are then forwarded to the switches.


The four main types of SDNs

Open SDN controls the virtual and physical devices responsible for routing data packets using only open protocols.

API-based SDN uses programming interfaces to control data flow to and from each device.

Overlay Model SDN: creates a virtual network on top of existing hardware, delivering tunnels with channels to data centers. In this model, both the bandwidth and devices are allocated to each channel.

Hybrid Model SDN combines SDN and traditional networks so that the optimal protocol can be assigned for each type of traffic. Hybrid SDN is often used as an entry-level model for SDN.


Why setting up software-defined networking is a good idea for your business

    • The most obvious reasons would be the centralization of network management and the scalability.
    • The network is programmable, and switch hardware only requires handling the data plane – which makes it considerably cheaper.
    • Hardware is vendor-agnostic and can be automated.
    • Easy set-up and easy writing of automation rules.
    • Security: the controller monitors traffic and, if needed, can reroute or drop the packets.
    • Dynamic use of load balancing to manage traffic flows as needed, which reduces latency.

We can help you with your move to SDN

InnoBoost is an IBM Platinum business partner, a level reserved for partners who deliver high-value transformative solutions and achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction, technical and sales certifications, as well as sales success.

Besides SDN – which is targeted at the LAN, InnoBoost can also help with software-defined WANs. Our skilled, agile, and certified team prides itself on delivering an unparalleled experience to its customers. From system and solution design to configuration, from price negotiation with IBM to ordering and delivery tracking, we ensure a seamless business transition. We also arrange access to other partners and consultants as needed.

Contact us today and let’s take a look at your current situation and find out how SDN can improve your business!

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