Become the Next Google or Facebook with SDN

Convergence Corner

Become the Next Google or Facebook with SDN

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  May 12, 2014

So you want to be the next Google or Facebook (News - Alert)? Who doesn’t? You’ll need the right team to get there from an operational perspective, but building an SDN-enabled network can put you on the path technologically.

No, it’s not really about becoming the next Google (News - Alert) or Facebook, but about becoming a great company. What these two have in common and do better than most other companies is use automation, operational efficiency, and simplicity to get the most of their hyper-scale data centers and deliver a quality user experience.

According to Prashant Gandhi, vice president of products and strategy for software defined-networking at Big Switch Networks (News - Alert), there are two ways to achieve such high levels of efficiency: enhance your existing network with an SDN solution or replace/build a new SDN network. Most enterprises today are likely to opt for the former alternative, moving slowly into an SDN environment. 

One of the critical network components required for proper operation and configuration is monitoring and management, which involves a series of network taps, typically for each monitoring tool in the network. This can easily result in hundreds of individual taps that must be managed and maintained, and which don’t act as one cohesive unit, creating inefficiency in the network.

Big Switch is now shipping version 3.0 of its Big Tap product, an overarching monitoring fabric that, to the network, looks and is like a giant master tap to which all monitoring tools are attached. Sitting at the top the network, the Big Tap Controller uses SDN-enabled switches and user-defined policies to optimize traffic flows, routing them to the right tools, not only increasing network visibility, but also creating a highly efficient network by eliminating multiple points of congestion. It’s a risk-free way of migrating to SDN.

For leading-edge companies looking to move more rapidly to a full SDN network, Big Switch’s Unified Cloud Fabric offers a single controller to manage policy-based routing across both physical and virtual networks. While the Unified Cloud Fabric is still in beta, with general availability expected later this year, businesses that have already migrated to cloud models and have applications distributed across physical and virtual appliances will achieve simplicity and consistency in monitoring, policy management, and troubleshooting through a single management tool.

With the new generation of applications being developed, and the tsunami of devices –both user-controlled and machine-operated – networks will soon be experiencing millions (perhaps billions) of connections per second, as the world becomes more and more IoT-driven. Businesses can ill afford the complexity and latency in their networks once these devices and applications reach a critical mass.

“Businesses might start with monitoring, but once they are comfortable with SDN, they will seek SDN alternatives for every network-related project that comes up,” says Gandhi. “Once the first SDN apps are lit up, we expect it to spread like wildfire because of the simplicity and efficiency.”

As more and more traffic hits networks, that traffic will need to be sent through network/user services before hitting the end application. This already creates complexity and latency, which will only increase as applications and traffic grow. SDN provides the programmability to eliminate any bottlenecks that would result in traditional network flows.

No, there may not be a next Google or Facebook, but there will be many businesses requiring the network efficiency and simplicity that has helped these two Internet giants succeed. Moving to SDN will help businesses achieve that level of service.

Edited by Maurice Nagle