Networking the Future!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Okay, let’s start


Oh wait a minute! We said the future, dint we? Yes, we did!

Now, you must be wondering about why this prelude and what could we be possibly up to with this blog post. We thought we would look at the changing future and how we would need to network it all. Network is by far one of the most important things in the whole of IT world; it is, if I may say the Nervous and Circulatory system of the IT. Take it away and we have isolated islands of service with no way to consume them. So, network in other words is the IT world’s service delivery fabric. It is one of the unsung heroes and it is like that hard working employee who never got replaced because he was very good in his role.

Now, I use that example not only as a creative license but as the truth, CIO’s all over the world would agree with me that they are open to the up gradation or testing out new products when it comes to servers, software’s and so on and so forth, but stop dead in the tracks when a new Network technology comes and they have to implement it. This one is purely because if it goes wrong in the technology, nothing else would work. That’s why there has been very slow development in the field of networking. In this blog, we would discuss about what networks would look like in the future.

Software Defined Networks:

As the world advances towards the cloud and slowly cloudifies the presence of all physical entities, the same trend ensues in the network world. We all at some point would have heard terms like, virtual networks, open-flow, vxlans, etc. and the blanket term Software Defined Networks. So, let’s demystify the term a bit and see the various sub technologies that build this up.

An API End-Point:

With cloud computing and application being programmed with API’s to request the resources that they need, one branch (not necessarily isolated) is focusing towards exposing API’s for some configuration which is then done on physical or virtual network or security devices, so instead of creating the VLAN’s in the above mentioned format, you now need to just make a REST call and the VLAN is created, off-course as an end user you may not care or know where it actually happens. This is especially useful if you really want a mix of traditional and modern network. This API is available for multiple such functions. One of the products available in the market that does this is “Quantum”, which is the part of the Open Stack cloud.

The above diagram crudely shows this concept, Please be aware that in this, only the access mechanism to the end user is changed, the configuration is still delivered to the device as it would in the past. You could think of this as an advancement of tools like HP-NA who could push the configuration to various device, but now with predefined scripts and the custom API’s


Open flow is truly a paradigm shift from the traditional networking. In the traditional network devices the configurations were stored in isolation within the devices, and each device depending on its configuration used to take its own decisions on which port to forward out the traffic, with open flow you are going to offshore that decision making capability. In open flow concepts, when the network device gets a packet, it asks its controller, the “open flow controller” what to do with the packet and the central controller would take the decision based on various different parameters that we would have coded in the software. Off Course the Open flow controller also provides us with an API so we could control the whole network using separate software.


The above diagram shows the open-flow protocol in its most basic essence. There are a few open flow controllers, the big names being, Nicera NVP, Big Switch networks Floodlight, NEC’s Open Flow controller, NOX/POX, so on and so forth.

Open flow being an open protocol, completely removes the vendor specific configuration requirements. It’s just matter of time before most vendors’ hardware switches will support open-flow protocol natively and the controllers will become more and more robust and feature rich.

The ramifications of the whole software defined networking are huge and the possibilities are endless and limitless. This can be implemented for any enterprise which needs the flexibility to control the network using software, for example have a controller with a holistic view of the network and association with monitoring software so that the failover can be achieved almost immediately.

Ofcourse, we are still on the look out of that killer controller who allows both open and non openflow SDN and implements the features that enterprises need. I now leave you with just the tip of the iceberg and the floor open for discussion.

Disclaimer: The view expressed herein are those of the author and Microland expressly disclaims any liability arising from its publication on our website.

Alok A S
Cloud Computing