Identifying the security pitfalls in SDN

While a software-defined network can improve application performance and help ease administrative tasks, it can also create new vulnerabilities. Experts offer advice for security teams.

Software-defined networks can be a boon to savvy organizations, offering opportunities to cut administrative costs while increasing network agility. But SDN technology can also create security risks, and how you manage those risks can mean the difference between a successful implementation and a disastrous one.

With the SDN architectural model, control of a network is decoupled from the physical infrastructure, which enables administrators to manage network services across different types of equipment from multiple vendors. Organizations can decouple the system that makes decisions about where traffic goes (control plane) from the systems that forward traffic to selected destinations (data plane).

SDN can deliver automated provisioning, network virtualization and network programmability to data center and enterprise networks. The increased network flexibility can help organizations as they move further into areas such as cloud computing, mobile technology and the Internet of Things.

"SDNs are the new architecture for the new age of IT and [off-premises] processing," says Daniel Mikulsky, an IT disaster recovery instructor at the Disaster Recovery Institute International, which provides professional certifications and education programs. "With the rise of cloud services, big data and the consumerization of IT through mobile computing and the Internet of Things, network flexibility and adaptability need to coincide with other innovations in technology."

Demand for the technology is expected to rise: IDC estimates the worldwide SDN market will hit $8 billion by 2018. That forecast includes physical network infrastructure that's already in use, controller and network-virtualization software, SDN network and security services and related applications, and SDN-related professional services.

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