May 12 2020

5 Questions on How Agencies Can Ease Data Center Traffic with SDN

State and local governments can use software-defined networking to explore less expensive and more secure options by leaving traditional protocols behind.

With a centralized dashboard that allows administrators to prioritize and provision applications and data packets on a network, software-defined networking offers benefits to state and local governments. Here are five key questions to think through when it comes to SDN: 

1. What Is Software-Defined Networking?

SDN is a strictly defined concept, separating out the job of switching packets (the data plane) from the decision-making on how to switch them (the control plane). SDN is different from traditional routing protocols, such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), which have the goal of discovering the fastest and most efficient path through the network. 

2. What Makes SDN Unique? 

With SDN, the idea is to mix in other factors that are hard or impossible to express in normal network routing protocols. For example, you may want to route traffic over a particular path because it’s less expensive, more secure or has more capacity. That can be hard to express in traditional routing; these things happen more naturally in SDN.

3. Is SDN the Same as Network Function Virtualization?

No. SDN is all about redesigning data center networks. Network function virtualization is about moving middleware, such as firewalls, network address translation and load balancers, into your virtualization environment without using traditional specialized hardware. Virtualizing middleware functions can be easier in a data center that has SDN. 

4. How Can Government Networks Benefit from SDN?

The most advanced SDN products are designed for data centers. When an application doesn’t have only three tiers, but dozens of moving parts that must be tightly and securely connected, SDN can create optimized paths and security separations that are hard to build manually using traditional virtual LANs, dynamic routing and switching.

5. Can I Use SDN in My WAN?

SDN products for branch office WANs are different. Software-defined WAN can build more reliable and cost-effective networks on top of different WAN technologies — and make routing decisions based on applications, user load, congestion, link cost and more. This isn’t the same SDN found in a data center, but a shared objective applies: increasing intelligence of the control plane.

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