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The SDN Revolution: Creating the Programmable Datacenter and Unleashing Developer Innovation

Sam Ramji
Sep 26, 2012

Software-defined networking (SDN) is changing the economics of large-scale datacenters. Similar to the effect of Linux on the operating system market, OpenFlow is driving disruptive commoditization of expensive network switches, routers, and controllers. As networking shifts to software control, the entire stack of compute, storage and networking now becomes a software-defined datacenter.

Where is the software that defines the network? It resides anywhere it needs to, and it uses APIs to read the state of the network and to change the network’s behavior in tandem with changes in application workloads. These APIs are presented by SDN controllers, network management software, and network analytics engines.

One of the crucial things to observe about the software-defined network is this: the software that defines the network does so via APIs. The API is the point of control for each component of the network including OpenFlow switches, SDN controllers, network management systems, and network analytics. Routing and control, once done by a single proprietary product, can now be done by software.

SDN Controllers are the main cogs in the wheel of the programmable datacenter. They have built-in features and talk to switches via the OpenFlow API. They also have APIs (called Northbound APIs) to enable applications to interact with the controller.

Figure 1: SDN Controller API

Allowing apps to use the Northbound APIs is how SDN enables increasingly agile, flexible and robust networking configurations. With capabilities to make networks perform faster, route the data based on business needs, and enable Internet-scale application communication, these apps now define a network’s behavior.

Figure 2: API View of SDN

The SDN wave and an API-based programming model present an opportunity to engage a large number of developers in adopting high value services. The ubiquity of HTTP means that API-based software can be written in a range of languages and it can be iterated rapidly, independent of the production and deployment cycles of network hardware.

A new breed of developer-administrator, who is familiar with an API programming model, has already emerged in the DevOps movement, and they are ready to expand their capabilities to the software-defined datacenter.

The rules of the networking industry are being rewritten in the SDN. Data centers are evolving into programmable environments that are controlled through APIs. The business impact and opportunity for datacenters is massive.  Come take part in the SDN revolution.

See API Management for the Software-Defined Network (SDN) for a copy of the whitepaper or to register for a live Webcast in October.

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