SDN gets real

Over the past decade there have been numerous attempts to define what the future of networking should be, and with each attempt came lots of hype about how the new technology would solve  the many well-known problems with traditional networks. The most recent of these promising new technologies has been Software Defined Networking (SDN).

SDN rose to prominence in 2011 with the inaugural Open Networking Summit where organizations including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon and many more shared how traditional networking had fallen behind and threatened the advancement of everything from applications to the future of the internet. Innovation had been stifled, costs were exorbitant, and networking needed to change to a more open, modern model to keep pace with technological change.

A common theme emerged: the networking industry had become just like the old mainframe industry –   closed, proprietary and vertically integrated. Applications are delivered as mere features of the OS, all from one single vendor. The massive software industry that has emerged as computing became open to all developers and innovators did not and could not exist under these stifling conditions.

By the second open networking summit only 6 months later, Google showcased how it had already converted its global wide area network to OpenFlow with profound strategic benefits; Microsoft showcased how they had already deployed SDN within the Azure cloud empowering fundamentally new capabilities and empowering powerful new services; Verizon, NTT and Deutsche Telecom shared how they were already well underway in their efforts and their preliminary results were already exceeding their projections.

Yet while SDN technologies are already delivering a profound impact for cloud and service provider networks, to date the technology has seen little adoption in enterprise networks.

Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, it becomes clear exactly why this is the case: all new technologies move through a similar lifecycle as they mature. When a technology is new, the earliest adopters are a small segment of the market whose business models benefit most strongly from the new technology. In the case of SDN, early adopters have been primarily service providers, cloud and application developers who have the benefit of being able to purpose-build networks with very specific requirements. As early adopters start to leverage the new technology they add new use cases one by one until a tipping point is reached where the technology becomes mature enough for the more general purpose requirements of Enterprise IT, enabling the technology to move from the Trough of Disillusionment toward the slope of enlightenment and  the plateau of productivity.

Dell Active Fabric Controller was created specifically to bring the promise of software-defined networking and cloud computing to the enterprise. This new technology is the final piece of the puzzle to solve one of the most vexing challenges that businesses struggle with today: the successful adoption and delivery of cloud-class computing in the enterprise.  Cloud and DevOps models have proven their ability to have a revolutionary impact on IT operations and business agility. However to realize the promised benefits, enterprises have to first overcome the daunting adoption curve of these emerging paradigms.

Dell’s OpenStack Powered Cloud solutions have already delivered robust solutions that enable enterprise adoption of more efficient infrastructure. Dell’s innovative Crowbar application makes deploying OpenStack simple through automated installation. Our comprehensive services and support and key partnerships with Red Hat, Canonical and SUSE can empower enterprises on their path to the cloud. But to date OpenStack has been lacking the critical networking capabilities that must exist to enable significant cloud features such as automated & on-demand provisioning, dynamic application scaling and elastic services.

Active Fabric Controller (AFC) solves this key challenge by delivering a new, purpose-built cloud networking solution that delivers dynamic, on-demand fabric and applications services for OpenStack workloads, delivered in a streamlined & elegant experience optimized for converged cloud administration and DevOps.

While traditional networks have been burdened by complex and inflexible design requirements and extensive manual planning and configuration, Active Fabric Controller turns this legacy model on its head, eliminating rigid design requirements and automating the manual configuration requirements that can slow application delivery to a crawl and prevent dynamic & elastic services.

With all primary operations automated out of the box, Active Fabric Controller offers intelligent, self-adapting fabric services for OpenStack for a powerful converged operational model that can increase the efficiency of all aspects of infrastructure provisioning and operations. With this intelligent, software-defined approach, you can make a clean break from the inefficient infrastructure strategies of the past and empower your organization to transform and modernize technology operations.

About the Author: Art Fewell