As a 20+ year industry veteran, when hearing the term Software Defined Networking (SDN) and the concept of Open Flow, I thought 'Haven't we solved this problem before?' Age-old protocols such as Spanning Tree and OSPF when deployed together provide consistent paths throughout the network. Newer technologies such as TRILL and Shortest Path Bridging capitalize on the aspects of those features combined to create a one stop shop protocol to accomplish the same idea. SDN, OpenFlow, and Open Daylight along with others felt redundant and 'market-y’. I had a firm belief that these ideas were more of a marketing scheme than a technology.
After spending some time recently with the Open Networking User's Group (ONUG), I had the opportunity to listen to the networking protocol end user's discuss how complex and challenging their networks have become despite the network also becoming a necessity similar to electricity or plumbing. My initial instinctual response was 'They just need a great management system and they will be fine. SNMP will once again save the day.' This might be true...until the network breaks......and the network engineers spend hours, possibly days trying to solve the problem.
Having never been on the maintenance side of the network, the reality of how complex networks have become to troubleshoot and maintain was eye-opening. Our everyday reliance on data communication networks is undeniable; the network has become as important as electricity and plumbing to our everyday lives and is indispensable to business. Because of this there can be no downtime or outages and if they occur they have to be short lived with a straight forward solution.
Networks have to change and the concept of Software Defined Networking seems to be a promising solution. The UNH-IOL is keeping pace with the changes, and investing in technologies such as OpenFlow and participating in the Open Networking Foundation, the Open Compute Project and Open Networking User's Group. We look forward to being an active participant in the changing landscape and invite you to come along too.