OpenFlow, Software-Defined Networking and the Enterprise WAN

Handicapping where OpenFlow will flourish when, and why

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The questions of when software-defined networking will be embraced for the Enterprise WAN, and what form(s) it might take, are very different. SDN almost certainly will happen in the enterprise WAN. In fact, WAN Virtualization is a form of software-defined networking. Where OpenFlow leverages (cheap) switches to build and control a reliable, scalable “self-managed” LAN network fabric for a data center or campus, WAN Virtualization leverages (cheap) Internet connectivity to augment or replace an MPLS WAN, building and controlling a reliable “self-managed” WAN network fabric to connect remote locations to private data centers, private clouds or public cloud services.

OpenFlow is a Layer 2 technique optimized and focused on changing the paradigm of LAN switches and in particular data center LAN switching. As with most things in IT, it is most likely to succeed in the areas for which it is most suited and optimized. Software-defined networking likely is in the cards for the enterprise WAN over the next few years, but it isn’t going to be OpenFlow-based; that market’s needs and the technology’s focus are simply too different.

A leading expert in WAN/LAN switching and routing, Andy founded Talari Networks, a pioneer in WAN Virtualization technology, and served as its first CEO. Andy is the author of an upcoming book on Next-generation Enterprise WANs.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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