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GCN : October 2014
GCN OCTOBER 2014 • GCN.COM 1 Over the past decade, virtualization and the cloud have reshaped the way government organizations acquire computing resourc- es, store data and deploy software applications. But networking has remained largely unchanged during this transformation of the IT enterprise. The arrival of software-defined networking (SDN), however, has the potential to dramatically revise traditional network architecture and free it from its hardware-centric past. How does SDN liber- ate networking functions from hardware? SDN revolves around a software layer that absorbs core networking tasks traditionally locked within hardware devices such as switches and routers. In a conventional network, the component that deter- mines how data will travel, called the control plane, and the component that actually transmits data, the data plane, are both baked into hardware. An SDN recasts the control plane as a software function that operates independently of networking hardware. “Through the logical separation of the network control and data planes, SDN technologies are en- abling the creation of a new form of distributed in- frastructure that can support advanced applications in the scientific, research and commercial world,” according to the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation in a recent report, Operational- ization of Software Defined Networks (SDN): Pro- gram Review. Network administrators usually configure indi- vidual network devices to accommodate shifting traffic patterns. SDN, in contrast, lets administrators program a network’s myriad devices through the centralized SDN controller. The big picture: an SDN deployment employs a software layer that assumes many of the complexities of managing a network. SDN’s software focus makes networks more flex- ible and much easier to manage, according to the technology’s adopters. SDN also promises to simplify and automate labor-intensive network management chores, saving administrative time. WHY SDN MATTERS SDN’s ease of management is one of the technol- ogy’s main attractions for government agencies. An Infonetics Research report, SDN Strategies: North SPECIAL PULLOUT SECTION Government navigates to software-defined networks Software-defined networking stands poised to transform public sector network infrastructure, making networks easier to manage and providing the flexibility to accommodate changing workloads. By John Moore
November and December 2014