Enterprise and university campus networks have enjoyed decades of architectural permanence. For years, these networks have been built with cookie cutter designs, with the only critical decision points being the number of ports and users. But new challenges presented today – more devices (both in number and type), mobility, security, and diverse application traffic – the management of these networks is finally coming to the forefront. Software-defined networking (SDN) is an ideal methodology to push policies to campus networks in a systematic and automated way.
OpenFlow, one of the cornerstones of SDN, was built to facilitate the separation of control from forwarding within network devices. One aspect of this is that it also allows operators to centralise the control of these devices, thereby simplifying the task of managing the network. And the campus network needs management simplification. Between bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT), networks are becoming more complex every day. Gartner projects that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016 – up 30 percent from 2015 – and would reach 20.8 billion by 2020.
In the IoT, everything from lighting to cameras to alarm, sprinkler and HVAC systems can be connected to a campus network, and these devices consume bandwidth and create traffic that must be managed. And employees, students and staff now carry multiple devices connected via Wi-Fi, so it’s no longer a matter of managing a fixed number of physical ports.
As OpenFlow deployments have progressed through proofs of concept and data centre deployments, we have recognised that it provides three fundamental advantages:
- It maps business logic to the network, enabling policy-driven networking
- It makes the network programmable, so policies can be applied automatically
- It enables the use of a packet broker so you can manage the network around visibility and analytics.