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What do a SDN Controller and Superman have in common?

by AceKrish ‎09-22-2014 05:00 AM - edited ‎09-22-2014 11:20 AM (4,763 Views)

Before we delve into the subject of the SDN controller and its evolution, why don’t we take a quick comic break?


Arguably the most popular super hero of all time is Superman. And most Superman fans are also familiar with his “normal” persona aka Clark Kent. What’s the point here?


The SDN controller of today can be likened to Clark Kent who plods along doing one thing well – print journalism. The SDN controller that we need is more like Superman – seeing, hearing and protecting everyone and everything. And once we see the SDN controller donning the garb of Superman we will never go back to Clark Kent will we? Read on….


The first SDN Controller was NOX, which was initially developed by Nicira Networks which emerged from the annals of Stanford University. In 2008, Nicira Networks (since acquired by VMware) donated NOX to the SDN community.


Since then the SDN controller has been on a singular path of providing network switch / router programmability via protocols such as OpenFlow. It serves asa way to extract the control and intelligence from the switches of a network into the brains of the SDN controller. But this is a very narrow and shortsighted definition of the SDN controller. A one trick pony much like Clark Kent.


Why so? The network of today consists of switches, routers, load balancer, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems etc. It is also fast morphing into a virtual environment with the advent of NFV while still sporting a large legacy hardware footprint. Add to this heady mix of multi-vendor deployments for each network element. The mind boggles! Imagine the poor network guy trying to keep up with configuration changes, upgrades, audits, and faults in this complex environment.


Shouldn’t the SDN controller be the “Superman” of the network that is able to manage, monitor and program ALL elements of the network – physical and virtual – from multiple vendors and and provide the same level of abstraction and programmability for the entire network? You bet.


But it has not happened so far has it? No, it hasn’t because the vendor community has been tethered to the swing of the past – the SDN->Openflow-> switch swing - and unable to let go in order to reach for the next swing – the SDN->multi-protocol->multi-element swing. That needs to change. We need to let go of the past and embrace the future – as Superman would.


Brocade understands this dynamic and has applied it in the development of the Brocade Vyatta Controller. It provides a complete end-to-end view of the multi-vendor, hybrid – physical and virtual – network that the network operators can use as their X-Ray into the network. This provides the visibility, agility and responsiveness that can be used to both support and monetize new business applications. And thanks to the “superman” SDN controller the network operator can demonstrate some remarkable super-powers of his own.