Software-based networking broadens automation approaches

Last updated:July 2017

Editor's note

Networking is in the midst of an evolution where information processing -- and the industry itself -- is moving away from proprietary hardware to software. The emergence of technologies like software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and virtual network functions (VNFs), among others, are all providing new ways for organizations to meet their network management, device configuration and security needs. But the road to software-based networking will require careful navigation.

This guide delves deeper into software-based networking, the specific technologies driving it and the accompanying mindset changes. As with most anything, automation and orchestration provide both benefits and challenges. There are still standards issues to work out and many of the technologies are only just beginning to mature. But they could also provide better network management and control, increased performance and cost savings.

1SDN isn't just for the data center anymore

While SDN technology originally focused around the data center, more users are finding its applications can extend to other use cases. Of course, with the good comes the bad.

2What does it take to virtualize the network and its functions?

If NFV is a subgroup of software-based networking, then virtual network functions (VNFs) could be considered a subgroup of the broader NFV initiative. Both aim to move network services that were traditionally performed in hardware toward one device that virtualizes those functions, and are most often used in telecom operator networks. Learn more about NFV's potential and how it still needs to mature.

3Preparing your staff for software-based networking

As software-based networking and its related technologies increase within networks, many network professionals may have to adjust their mindsets and roles. These changes could be difficult, especially for engineers who haven't delved much into newer technologies -- like SDN, for example. But even for cloud- and virtualization-savvy networking pros, SDN still won't seem simple; it puts a complex layer of abstraction on top of a complex network in hopes of creating a simpler interface. Any organization looking seriously at software-based networking will need to carefully think about how it will affect networking staff and IT operations.