At the time when Bob Muglia presented Juniper's SDN strategy, there was still a lot of confusion in the industry around what SDN was and was not. In his presentation Bob described and debunked seven "myths" of SDN.
Recently we have noticed that there is an 8th myth floating around, namely that SDN requires a forklift upgrade. In actuality, SDN does not require a forklift upgrade: you can deploy SDN on your existing network.
In the early days, the SDN approach was to create reactive end-to-end networks. Reactive means that every first packet of every flow is punted to a centralized controller which decides whether or not the flow is allowed and if so what the optimal end-to-end flow for the path is. End-to-end means that the centralized controller programs flow into each switch on the chosen path.
Unfortunately, the reactive end-to-end architecture is not scalable. Punting the first packet of every flow to the centralized controller introduces latency and creates a choke point in the network. Installing fine grained flows on each switch on the path introduces even more latency and requires massive forwarding tables on the aggregation switches.
There are various tricks to alleviate these problems, for example using fine grained flows at the edge and coarser grained flow in the core. However, these tricks are simply small steps towards a better solution which is a proactive overlay networks.
Proactive means that the centralized controller installs the forwarding state a-priori before the flows arrive, avoiding the need to punt packets to the controller. Overlay means that the virtual network is separated from the physical network by encapsulating packets into tunnels such as VXLAN or MPLS over GRE.
Proactive overlay networks provide several advantages over reactive end-to-end networks.
This last point is the key to avoiding forklift upgrades. It make it possible to reap the benefits of SDN by using SDN protocols such as XMPP or OpenFlow in the virtual overlay while continuing to use existing routing and switching protocols in the underlay thereby avoiding disruption to existing services. Note that the physical underlay can be greatly simplified by eliminating protocol features which are no longer in the presence of an overlay.
To find out more about the advantages of the "proactive overlay" approach over the "reactive end-to-end" approach see our new white paper.
The key to a successful SDN implementation is to find just the right balance between control plane centralization and distribution.Read more...
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Vice President, Business Strategy and Marketing
Software Solutions Division