What SDN is and where it’s going

Forrester analyst Andre Kindness says a lot of clients ask him how they should think about software-defined networking (SDN), which has been heralded for years as the next great thing in the industry.

SDN – which is an architecture approach, not a specific product – has traditionally been thought of as virtualizing data center networks. This typically means separating the management of the control plane of network devices from the underlying data plane that forwards network traffic. Using a software-defined system to control this disaggregation brings many benefits, including increased network management flexibility and being able to more easily implement fine-grained security policies.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: What’s the difference between SDN and NFV? +

But Kindness says too often network operators think about SDN with too narrow a focus. There’s been an evolution in the SDN market in recent years, driven by increased demands on the network. To meet these new challenges the underlying technology that powers SDN has been applied to other areas of networking. “The network in the data center isn’t an isolated domain,” Kindness explains. “How does it interact with public cloud, how are branch offices being connected to, what does the world of IoT mean for the network? It’s all part of this new modern network.”

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