Virtualization and network programmability, according to SDN and NFV

Vendor-driven network overlay techniques, programmability via proprietary APIs for existing switches, and manual reprogramming to route traffic are some of the options available today for traditional network devices to deliver a dynamic network.

IT administrators are adopting virtualized infrastructure to realize the performance and cost benefits from centralized, industry-standard software and hardware with distributed processing capacity that require fewer network engineering personnel to manage. Virtualization, the driver for consolidation of server resources as virtual workloads to reduce cost, enables applications to be virtualized and distributed. As existing workloads are migrated across machines, networks or even geographies, or new application resources are added or removed based on demand, the physical end points of existing network traffic flow change. This migration of server resources is challenging for many aspects of traditional networking.

For administrators of networks, and providers of value-added services, traditional networks must evolve to be dynamic while at the same time reduce cost by adhering to standards and reducing vendor dependence. They must also allow protocol and policy independence, and address changing traffic patterns and usage driven by mobility of users and cloud-based delivery of applications.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) brings standardization – well-defined interfaces, OpenFlow as the initial protocol standard, and programmability to the network infrastructure – while Network Function Virtualization (NFV) allows network operators to quickly enable new value-added services. The NFV effort is highly complementary to SDN and both concepts will have a profound impact on network communications.

SDN enables the control plane of a networking switch to be decoupled from the data plane and implemented as a software application. By centralizing the control plane, administrators are able to monitor and direct network traffic through software. As a result, the network appears to the applications and policy engines as a single, logical switch.

Today, each network function – such as network and application security, traffic management, firewall, etc. – is vendor-specific and optimized for a particular hardware. For an operator, adding a new service, say for example cloud-based tenants, may require a new hardware network appliance. This demands space and power for the new network device, and managing the life cycle of this new appliance can be challenging as well as expensive. NFV is a network operator initiative to increase the virtual network functions within data centers and service provider networks while addressing the cost aspects (OPEX and CapEX) of their network infrastructure. 

The popularity of SDN will be driven by availability of innovative SDN applications that work with new SDN controllers and can quickly deliver the benefits for this dynamic network (e.g., scalability, visibility, management and availability of applications).

Radware has introduced an SDN application that works with SDN controllers to address network security (DefenseFlow). We recently announced an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) SDN application –ElasticScale – that provides on-demand ADC resource scaling based on dynamic service/application SLA. The SDN ADC application allows the utilization of virtual and physical ADC resources across disparate networks to support local and global load balancing and disaster recovery scenarios.

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Patrick McNeil

Patrick is a Solutions Architect in Business Development and Carrier Sales for Radware. Before joining Radware in February of 2014, he was in charge of product security assurance and pentesting for Oracle | Acme Packet. Patrick is a subject matter expert in security for real-time voice and video, and has spoken on security and fraud schemes at multiple conference events such as DEF CON Skytalks, CarolinaCon, Oracle Openworld, WebRTC Conference & Expo, FIINA, CFCA and IAUG. Most of his twenty years of experience have been within telecom manufacturers focusing on security, large scale architecture design, third party integration and operations. Patrick also has experience in IT roles within outsourcing, document management, banking and defense industries.

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