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SDN blogs: The biggest misconceptions about SDN in 2015

In this week's SDN blogs, analysts explore some of the biggest misconceptions of SDN in 2015, and why convincing customers to change to white box switches is so difficult.

Over the past year, awareness of software-defined networking has increased at a rapid rate, and more and more organizations are considering adding SDN to their networking mix. Still, not everyone is clear on how the technology works. In his recent post on the Gartner Blog, analyst Andrew Lerner explains seven of the top SDN misconceptions.

Lerner says the biggest myths are that SDN is solely for cloud and service providers and/or data centers. He writes, "While the early SDN adopters have been cloud providers and folks with large-scale networks, the benefits of SDN (agility, cost, management, innovation) apply to the mainstream, and even midmarket." And while SDN is poised to revolutionize data centers, it also carries enormous benefits for WANs.

Another misconception is that SDN is the only path to network agility -- something that Lerner says can also be achieved through automation, orchestration and programmable fabrics. (By the way, Lerner says that the latter are not SDN.)

Finally, Lerner also writes that many potential users feel uneasy about programmers gaining access to the network. He points out, however, that a networking professional typically sets up the templates that dictate how APIs will be written to the controller. In other words, developers won't have unlimited access. 

Read the entire SDN 2015 list here and see what's changed since 2014's list.

Want to be a network engineer? Understand the basics first

"Do you know how ARP works? What is proxy ARP? How does TCP offload work and why is it useful? What is an Ethernet collision and when would you see one? Why do we need MLD in IPv6 neighbor discovery?"

These are questions Ivan Pepelnjak poses in a recent ipSpace blog post, in which he talks about the importance of learning networking fundamentals before you can fully understand the industry's newest concepts.

Pepelnjak argues that as SDN continues to gain traction and networking infrastructure becomes more complex, this firm grasp of the basics will be critical to successfully troubleshooting issues that arise in software-defined networks. He says that a foundational understanding of networking principles will prepare you to fix problems arising from "totally unexpected interactions between controllers, controlled network devices and attached end hosts." The good news, according to Pepelnjak: The idea that we no longer need networking engineers is a ridiculous one, perpetuated by "clueless marketing VPs." The bad news: A growing number of today's network engineers don't feel the need to perfect the fundamentals, believing they can rely on "Uncle Google" to provide cut-and-paste quick-fixes.  It's not enough to just make the technology work -- he says you should also understand how it works.

Pepelnjak writes that one of the main reasons he created his blog, which contains numerous educational webinars, is simply to teach users the basics of networking.

Read his full post here, and also be sure to check out his introduction to SDN.

Why more enterprises aren't using white box switches

Without a proven track record, widespread adoption and clear benefits, it's extremely difficult for a new technology to catch on in the marketplace, consequently making it nearly impossible to convince enterprises to take a chance. These challenges are just some of the obstacles white box switch vendors are facing, writes Mike Fratto, an analyst at Current Analysis. "In order to do so, enterprises would need to have the same assurances from their VAR, integrator or consultant that they have today and white box switches and software would have to be as reliable or better than what they can get," Fratto says.

Yet Fratto also says he believes it is possible to convince companies to make the switch and mentions a few possible strategies. Among his suggestions: offering prolonged trials to showcase the capabilities of white box switches and integrating the switches with customers' existing operations software. Read more here about why Fratto believes few companies are willing to take the white box path on their own and what it could take to change that.

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