Network pros can't stick with their old ways of working if they want to have a future in the world of software-defined networking.
The way networks are conceived and managed is no longer about the individual components; it’s about the whole. Vendors want IT consumers to see their networks as integrated systems providing an end-to-end group of services that work centrally together to deliver an application. For network engineers, this means big changes ahead.
Most network pros are used to point solutions: Firewalls go in certain places; network switches are sized for port density, throughput, and function, and placed accordingly; and WAN routers connect non-Ethernet circuits to enterprises and campuses. For the most part, each of those elements is managed individually.
The implications of this go beyond daily network operations; the greater challenge is that of executing a network design across a diverse infrastructure. This is a difficult task, requiring that an architect intimately understand application requirements and behavior, as well as the abilities of network hardware and software to deliver those requirements. Consequently, network designs often stop at connectivity: It's good enough if the network is delivering IP relatively quickly. This is the plumber’s perspective, and it’s the wrong one to hold in the context of modern IT.
Unification of IT policy delivery up and down the stack is the wave of future. Networking can take its cues from the virtualization and automation folks. Those people can create deliver new instances of applications in minutes, automating the installation of an operating system, storage, and virtual network connectivity.
The challenge is for networking to catch up to this way of doing IT. Firewalls, deep-packet inspection devices, application delivery controllers as well as garden-variety routers and switches need to be provisioned in the same amount of time that applications can be spun up on a hypervisor. As a result, software-defined networking (SDN) has come into the spotlight.
Ethan Banks will participate in what is sure to be a lively panel discussion, "Will SDN Make Me Homeless?" at Interop Las Vegas, which begins March 31. The panel will look at the changing role of network and IT pros as automation alters the networking field. Register for Interop today!
Ethan Banks, CCIE #20655, is a hands-on networking practitioner who has designed, built and maintained networks for higher education, state government, financial institutions, and technology corporations. Ethan is also a host of the Packet Pushers Podcast. The technical ... View Full Bio
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