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SDN is starting to be considered by enterprise organizations, and those organizations need to begin to understand what SDN is and how it will affect their IT department. We have assembled a reading list to help people get started with SDN.

Implementing SDN will be like a journey. It isn’t simply learning a new technology and how to configure and troubleshoot it. SDN will require fundamental changes to the operation of networks, integrating them more tightly to the other functions of IT.

We’ve been through this change before with the convergence of voice and data. The voice team and data team needed to work closely together and eventually merged. Cultural changes were required. The same thing will happen with SDN, only the convergence will be between the network team and the remainder of the IT organization. Our estimates are that the adoption of SDN will likely require at least twice the effort and time that the voice-data integration required.

The dynamic nature of SDN will also require adjustment from the entire IT organization. The networking team must become comfortable with automated systems making configuration changes to the network. Network configuration will happen in seconds in order to support rapid changes in virtual machine deployments. New technologies like Containers (see Wake Up to Containers) will exacerbate this trend. Security will change to the whitelist model that is used in SDN. That is a big change from traditional networking’s open approach that used a blacklist security configuration. Applications will communicate with the SDN controller to verify that the network is setup for optimal operation and security.

Some people confuse network automation with SDN. While SDN allows for faster network configuration, that’s only one factor. When applications and the network can share information about their needs and capabilities, new things will happen. For example, QoS classification and marking can be dynamically configured based on individual calls. An application that needs more virtual machine computing capability to handle increases in demand can ask the network where it is best to locate the VMs, based on network loading and latency. The network can also talk back to the applications to communicate changes in network resources, perhaps due to a failure.

To help our customers get up to speed on SDN, we’ve assembled a reading list. It isn’t something that you’re going to consume over a long weekend and come back to work as an expert, ready to convert your network to SDN. Expect to consume parts of it, think on what you’ve learned, maybe re-read some things, think some more, and read some more new things. It will eventually begin to come together. Links to some of the blog posts provide examples of the benefits that SDN brings.

The practical approach to SDN is to start learning about it and implement something small. Create a cross-functional team comprised of members of the networking, security, unified communications, server, and application teams. Identify an application that can be deployed on SDN and implement a proof-of-concept using blade servers and leaf-spine switching fabric. Several networking equipment vendors offer starter kits. Learn how the application can talk with the SDN controller to share information in both directions. Understand where the vendors are with their SDN implementations and how well they support your applications.

Good luck with your journey. Let us know if you would like assistance along the way.

Getting Started

Start with these, which gets you started before diving in deeper.

Videos

Web Sites

Blogs

Documents and Papers

Researchers

Anything by Scott Shenker, Nick McKeown, Nick Feamster, Martin Casado, Jennifer Rexford is worth your time.

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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.

 

Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.

 

John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.