The term "software defined networking" (SDN) certainly means different things to different people. To the giant web companies, SDN means having the ability to create custom network software to enable functions that are unique to that organization. This requires dedicated software engineers and a networking team large enough to run and support the custom networks. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 companies that have the resources, size, and scale for this model of SDN to make sense.
For businesses below this tier – service providers and enterprises – SDN means the promise of automation and cloud scale but also a high level of complexity, sometimes more complexity than the original network. A good rule of thumb for IT initiatives is that solutions should never be more complicated than the problem they're intended to solve. This is one reason SDN deployments have been slow despite the fact that almost every organization I talk to today is interested in the technology. For SDNs to become pervasive in the non-web-scale tier, they must become easier to deploy.
This week, Arista Networks unveiled its EOS CloudVision software platform, which enables organizations to bring cloud-level automation to an Arista network. The CloudVision controller is an EOS-based pure software product that abstracts management functions of the switches. The abstraction of the physical network is done through the collection of detailed configuration information from the network elements that are stored in a centralized database. The ability to "see" and manage the entire network instead of the individual elements has a number of use cases, including the following:
- Centralized visibility into the state of the network. This can create a single point of integration for ecosystem partners such as VMware, Microsoft, HP, Dell, Red Hat, and the OpenStack cloud controller.
- Controller-agnostic support for orchestration of virtual workloads though open APIs, such as OVSDB, JSON, and OpenStack plugins.
- Zero-touch provisioning and configuration management through turnkey workflow automation. Network operations teams can automate network-wide upgrades and configuration changes.
- Network-wide rollbacks. CloudVision captures rolling snapshots during the change control process, making it easier to do rollbacks to previous known, working statues.
- Network analytics done through the streaming of real-time network data. Traditional networks use techniques like periodic device polling for telemetry. This was sufficient when networks were static, but far too slow for the dynamic nature of cloud environments.
- Bridges the virtual/physical boundary. One of the biggest challenges with SDNs is that the overlay and underlay networks are typically managed independently. CloudVision provides visibility across both the physical and virtual network, effectively removing the "blind spot" created by a virtual overlay.
Enterprises and services providers want a faster, more open and agile network – which is what SDNs promise. However, outside of a handful of companies, the path to a software defined network is far too complex and challenging, making the deployment of an SDN too risky. Arista's CloudVision brings turnkey to SDNs through the use of an open, turnkey approach. Now organizations of all sizes can enjoy the benefits of cloud-like automation without having to hire hundreds of network engineers.