Understanding Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Virtualization

The evolution of virtualization lead to an evolution of wide range of virtualized technology including the key building block of a data center which is Network. A traditional network used be wired connection of physical switches and devices. A network administrator has nightmare making some configuration changes and possibility of breaking another configuration while doing same changes. Putting together a massive data center would have been expensive venture and lengthy project. Since the virtualization and cloud services on the horizon, anything can be offered as a service and almost anything can virtualised and software defined.

Since development of Microsoft SCVMM and VMware NSX, network function virtualization (NFV), network virtualization (NV) and software defined network (SDN) are making bold statement on-premises based customer and cloud based service provider. Out of all great benefits having a software defined network, two key benefits standout among all which are easy provisioning a network and easy change control of that network. You don’t have to fiddle around physical layer of network and you certainly don’t have to modify virtual host to provision a complete network with few mouse click. How does it work?

Software Defined Networking- Software defined networking (SDN) is a dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable, high-bandwidth, agile open architecture. SDN architectures decouple network control and forwarding functions, enabling network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted from applications and network services. Examples of Cisco software defined networking is here.

The fundamental building block of SDN is:

  • Programmable: Network control is directly programmable because it is decoupled from forwarding functions.
  • Agile: Abstracting control from forwarding lets administrators dynamically adjust network-wide traffic flow to meet changing needs.
  • Centrally managed: Network intelligence is (logically) centralized in software-based SDN controllers that maintain a global view of the network, which appears to applications and policy engines as a single, logical switch.
  • Programmatically configured: SDN lets network managers configure, manage, secure, and optimize network resources very quickly via dynamic, automated SDN programs, which they can write themselves because the programs do not depend on proprietary software.
  • Open standards-based and vendor-neutral: When implemented through open standards, SDN simplifies network design and operation because instructions are provided by SDN controllers instead of multiple, vendor-specific devices and protocols.

Cisco SDN Capable Switches

Modular Switches

Cisco Nexus 9516
Cisco Nexus 9508
Cisco Nexus 9504

Fixed Switches

Cisco Nexus 9396PX
Cisco Nexus 9396TX
Cisco Nexus 93128TX
Cisco Nexus 9372PX
Cisco Nexus 9372TX
Cisco Nexus 9336PQ ACI Spine Switch
Cisco Nexus 9332PQ

Network Virtualization- A virtualized network is simply partitioning existing physical network and creating multiple logical network. Network virtualization literally tries to create logical segments in an existing network by dividing the network logically at the flow level. End goal is to allow multiple virtual machine in same logical segment or a private portion of network allocated by business. In a physical networking you cannot have same IP address range within same network and manage traffic for two different kind of services and application. But in a virtual world you can have same IP range segregated in logical network. Let’s say two different business/tenant have 10.124.3.x/24 IP address scheme in their internal network. But both business/tenant decided to migrate to Microsoft Azure platform and bring their own IP address scheme (10.124.3.x/24) with them. It is absolutely possible for them to retain their own IP address and migrate to Microsoft Azure. You will not see changes within Azure portal. You even don’t know that another organisation have same internal IP address scheme and possibly hosted in same Hyper-v host. It is programmatically and logically managed by Azure Stack and SCVMM network virtualization technology.

Network Functions Virtualization- Network function virtualization is virtualising layer 4 to layer 7 of OSI model in a software defined network. NFV runs on high-performance x86 platforms, and it enables users to turn up functions on selected tunnels in the network. The end goal is to allow administrator to create a service profile for a VM then create logical workflow within the network (the tunnel) and then build virtual services on that specific logical environment. NFV saves a lot of time on provisioning and managing application level of network. Functions like IDS, firewall and load balancer can be virtualised in Microsoft SCVMM and VMware NSX.

Here are some Cisco NFV products.

IOS-XRv Virtual Router: Scale your network when and where you need with this carrier-class router.

Network Service Virtualization- Network Service Virtualization (NSV) virtualizes a network service, for example, a firewall module or IPS software instance, by dividing the software image so that it may be accessed independently among different applications all from a common hardware base. NSV eliminates cost of acquiring a separate hardware for single purpose instead it uses same hardware to service different purpose every time a network is accessed or service is requested. It also open the door for service provider offer security as a service to various customer.

Network security appliances are now bundled as a set of security functions within one appliance. For example, firewalls were offered on special purpose hardware as were IPS (Intrusion Protection System), Web Filter, Content Filter, VPN (Virtual Private Network), NBAD (Network-Based Anomaly Detection) and other security products. This integration allows for greater software collaboration between security elements, lowers cost of acquisition and streamlines operations.

Cisco virtualized network services available on the Cisco Catalyst 6500 series platform.

Network security virtualization

  • Virtual firewall contexts also called security contexts
  • Up to 250 mixed-mode multiple virtual firewalls
  • Routed firewalls (Layer 3)
  • Transparent firewalls (Layer 2, or stealth)
  • Mixed-mode firewalls combination of both Layer 2 and Layer 3 firewalls coexisting on the same physical firewall. 

Virtual Route Forwarding (VRF) network services

  • NetFlow on VRF interfaces
  • VRF-aware syslog
  • VRF-aware TACACS
  • VRF-aware Telnet
  • Virtualized address management policies using VRF-aware DHCP
  • VRF-aware TACACS
  • Optimized traffic redirection using PBR-set VRF

Finally you can have all these in one basket without incurring cost for each component once you have System Center Virtual Machine Manager or Microsoft Azure Stack implemented in on-premises infrastructure or you choose to migrate to Microsoft Azure platform.

Relevant Articles

Comparing VMware vSwitch with SCVMM Network Virtualization

Understanding Network Virtualization in SCVMM 2012 R2

Cisco Nexus 1000V Switch for Microsoft Hyper-V

How to implement hardware load balancer in SCVMM

Understanding VLAN, Trunk, NIC Teaming, Virtual Switch Configuration in Hyper-v Server 2012 R2

About Raihan Al-Beruni

My Name is Raihan Al-Beruni. I am working as an Infrastructure Architect in Data Center Technologies in Perth, Western Australia. I have been working on Microsoft technologies for more than 15 years. Other than Microsoft technologies I also work on Citrix validated solution and VMware data center virtualization technologies. I have a Masters degree in E-Commerce. I am certified in Microsoft, VMware, ITIL and EMC. My core focus is on cloud technologies. In my blog I share my knowledge and experience to enrich information technology community as a whole. I hope my contribution through this blog will help someone who wants more information on data center technologies.
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3 Responses to Understanding Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Virtualization

  1. Kashif says:

    Such a nice article.
    How and where we can put SDN for utilization?


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