I had an interesting conversation today after a client meeting with a vendor they are using. I was being introduced to one of the newer members of the vendor team that I had never met and was asked the following question while describing the work Itential does:
“So, when Itential says SDN what do you mean?”
At first I was taken aback because this is a vendor that is a pretty major player in the SDN space, and my initial reaction was to think he didn’t understand what SDN was. However, in the course of the conversation that followed it became clear that this gentleman’s question came from the misuse of this term that is so prevalent in the industry today.
He asked further if we meant separation of control plane from the data plane, and the accompanying software-based management of the control plane for virtual networking, OR if we considered programmatic management of network configurations to be SDN.
You see, the later definition is one that many vendors try to use to sell customers on the reality of SDN in today’s network. Add to this the fact that this is an area that Itential has a very high level of competence in with our Pronghorn Application Platform. I quickly explained that this is not SDN, but is something we do.
Utilizing tools that we offer can be an important step to moving your network from a legacy, OSS focused management methodology to one that is based on programmatic principles. With the lack of maturity in SDN solutions currently this can be a valuable step forward. It allows you to start implementing software-based principles into your Network Engineering organization that will ease the transition to SDN later…but it is not SDN.
As mentioned above, SDN equals separation of control and data planes. SDN equals the ability to deploy dynamic, virtual networks that overlay your physical network. Networks that can automatically change based on the day to day needs your company encounters based on customer demand, capacity issues, or network troubles. It logically leads to things like Service Function Chaining between virtual network elements, as well as between virtual and physical network elements. It is Software Defined Networking.
The bottom line here? Don’t abuse the term SDN and turn it into just another acronym that means 3 or 4 different things depending on who you talk to. Are you implementing a software-based solution to manage your network configurations in a programmatic manner? Good for you! There are tons of benefits you are going to get from this.
If you aren’t doing this, give us a buzz to find out how you can. You are not “doing SDN”, however, even if your vendor tells you that you are.
Using software to manage your network does not equal Software Defined Networking…period