Virtualisation happens when multiple computers, each running their own operating system, use the physical hardware of a single computer. Each computer is convinced through virtualisation software that they alone have total control over the hardware they are running on.
This is also called “hardware abstraction”, and it is what allows a single host computer to run several separate “virtual machines” at the same time. This saves companies a lot of money as they no longer need one physical server per active server deployed inside their organisation.
As you might imagine, business decision-makers love this idea and thus companies have taken to it like ducks to water, and today, you’ll find servers running virtual machines in just about every big company you care to name.
Virtualise more than just servers
But did you know that more than just servers can be virtualised?
Today, you can apply the same principle of hardware abstraction to the networking world. Instead of managing your network by configuring individual switches and firewalls and load-balancers, you can virtualise control using software that lives between the application layer and infrastructure layer of your network that does everything those devices do, and more.
That controller software becomes the nerve-centre of your network, directing traffic to where it needs to go using the shortest-possible route. In other words it can be used to tell every component of your network what to do, all from one centralised dashboard.
Doing this is particularly handy in a datacentre context, where networks are complex and have very demanding performance requirements, and where the ability to adjust as fast as possible to changing business requirements is absolutely vital.
This is called Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and it’s the future of the datacentre network.
The beauty of SDN
The beauty of SDN is its centrality; having a single dashboard where network parameters are set dramatically cuts down the time it takes to do anything, as you can change the network to comply with the network operator’s policies from that dashboard with just a few clicks.
Your changes are automatically applied, instead of requiring technicians to make the desired changes to each of the affected network components.
The next-best thing about SDN is that it doesn’t matter which vendor you got your networking equipment from, as SDN is vendor-agnostic.
SDN software has been built from the ground up using open-source platforms and protocols. Thus, SDN solutions are easily able to provide the functionality and performance delivered by traditional networks, but with added flexibility and the ability to leverage both on-premise and cloud resources for the best possible business outcomes.
There is one major drawback, however, and that is the fact that deploying a software-defined network means that your centralised software controller becomes a single point of failure. In somewhat scarier terms, whoever owns it, owns the network.
It’s not the end of the world, though: to mitigate this risk, you’ll need to deploy secondary network controllers for redundancy and backup purposes, and of course secure all controllers with strict authentication and security policies to ensure they never fall into the wrong hands.
Benefits of SDN
There are a number of business benefits delivered by switching to a software-defined networking model. Here are just a few:
· Time-to-market for new applications is dramatically faster
· SDN enables faster response times to technical issues and outages, leading to less down time
· Programmability leads to the automation of network functions and thus a lowering of operating costs
Not a silver bullet
Software-defined networking can be the answer to many modern-day networking headaches, and grants agility that running networks the old-fashioned way simply can’t, but of course it’s not necessarily the right approach in every single situation.
Juniper Networks, Inc. is an American multinational corporation that develops and markets networking products, including routers, switches, network management software, network security products, and software-defined networking technology.
To find out more about how SDN can help your business, get in touch with the Tarsus Distribution Juniper team – they can help you through any networking challenge you might be facing, and they can help you to plan and deploy your very own software-defined network if that’s what you need.