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GCN : October 2014
GCN OCTOBER 2014 • GCN.COM 3 Global Environment for Network Innovation is also experi- menting with SDN, while NSF’s Campus Cyberinfrastructure – Infrastructure, Innovation and Engineering Program pursues SDN research. Industry analysts predict early SDN projects will soon trans- late into broader adoption. Infonetics noted that the majority of respondents to its survey are currently running SDN lab trials or will launch trials this year. Forty-five percent of the respondents, meanwhile, plan to put SDN in production in the data center next year, a population that will grow to 87 per- cent in 2016. International Data Corp., for its part, forecasts the world- wide SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provid- er segments will expand from $960 million this year to more than $8 billion by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate at 89.4 percent. IDC views the enterprise sector as a “major driver of overall SDN growth over the next several years.” Top use cases include network programmability, customization and security applications, according to IDC. Grand View Research Inc., in research published in August, also cited enterprises as the largest end user segment for SDN in 2013, accounting for more than 40 percent of the global market. GETTING STARTED IN SDN Agencies seeking to deploy SDN will, at minimum, need an SDN controller, and one or more applications that make their network requirements known to the SDN controller. The Open Networking Foundation’s OpenFlow serves as the communica- tions protocol in many SDN deployments. Adopters will need to install network devices that support SDN protocols. Gross- ner suggested orchestration software can also be layered on top of a virtualized server, storage and networking environ- ment. The need to acquire specialized software and replace exist- ing networking gear with SDN-compatible equipment makes the software-defined transition a potentially expensive and disruptive undertaking. A government agency, however, could wait for a networking technology refreshment cycle to replace its switches and install the SDN software components. A pilot deployment involving a single application and a por- tion of the network is another – and perhaps more likely – path agencies may take. Leveraging existing vendors may also make SDN deploy- ment somewhat easier for agencies to swallow. According to Infonetics, 77 percent of the respondents to its SDN survey said they would be inclined to turn to their incumbent network vendor for SDN hardware and software. The respondents who said they would consider other sources of supply pointed to third-party SDN vendors (11 percent), existing virtualization vendors (8 percent), open source vendors (3 percent) and other vendors (1 percent). But not all government entities are ready to begin pilot- ing and deploying SDNs, however. The Energy/NSF report supports the idea of launching Software-Defined Exchanges (SDX) as part of the initial round of SDN deployments. The exchanges would interconnect different SDNs and provide an onramp for customers who want to use an SDN. Inder Monga, chief technologist and area lead for ESnet, compared SDXs to Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), which he said were instrumental in getting a wider deployment of the Internet and allowing ISPs to exchange traffic. “SDXs are the SDN-based, policy-enforced, programmable equivalent of IXPs,” Monga noted. If SDXs were to be built, they could emerge as the initial method agencies outside of the community of early adopters could use to gain experience with SDN. “SDXs are an easy way for an organization to experiment with SDN since they don’t have to redesign, re-architect their network, while still getting the benefits of programmability for the traffic that enters/exits the organization,” Monga said. Another entry-level SDN option would be to use software- based SDN devices, such as platforms based on Open vSwitch (OVS) or Intel’s Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). OVS is a multilayer virtual switch available via the Apache 2.0 license. Intel describes DPDK as a set of libraries and drivers designed to speed up packet processing. Monga said an OVS- or Intel DPDK-based platform “can be another way for an organization to use off-the-shelf servers to experiment with SDN and build a relatively full-featured cam- pus network.” Agencies may pursue different routes to SDN, but the one thing they all will need is adequate time to work with the technology. Assigning personnel to study this rapidly evolving market may pay off down the road. “Free up staff time to experiment,” Vietzke advised. “This one [SDN] is moving fast, so having some time to let people explore is important.” • Forty-five percent of the respondents plan to put SDN in production in the data center next year, a population that will grow to 87 percent in 2016.
November and December 2014