Software-Defined Networking (SDN) provides dynamic ways to provision and manage networks in a declarative fashion using programmable network elements rather than the imperative, infrastructure-centric designs seen in traditional networking. SDN is an exciting concept that offers many commercial, technical, and operational opportunities for both enterprises and cloud providers.

Administering networks programatically also involves a mindshift for engineers, service managers, network providers, and C-suite executives. The many possibilities that this mindshift presents, especially the abstraction of complexity and speed of scale brought through the transition from sophisticated hardware to intelligence in software, prompted the research for my university thesis: “Software Defined Networking (SDN) and its role in automating the provision and scaling of cloud native architectures through network programmability.”

In this thesis, I explore a number of considerations relevant to today’s network design decisions, such as:

  • A comparison of the traditional three-tiered, hierarchical network model with the spine-leaf design and its impact on large-scale data center operations, as well as the ability to scale and optimize elastic cloud computing services.
  • The characteristics of cloud-native applications, how their functions relate to the underlying network infrastructure, and their use of a cloud environment to provide self-healing, highly available, and fault-tolerant cloud computing services.
  • How cloud networks manage thousands of endpoints in the data center through virtualization, overlay technologies like VXLAN and cloud orchestration platforms like OpenStack.
  • A use case illuminating the benefits of a cloud-oriented SDN solution.

My goal for this work is to provide a forward-thinking body of research to help IT professionals understand how networks are changing for the future.

Do you agree with my assertions about the direction of networking? How are you adopting or considering programmable networks in your organization? Have programmable networks already made a difference for the digitization of your IT operations and business outcomes? Share your thoughts in the comments.