Significance of Software-Defined Networking Goes Way Beyond the Network

Michael Vizard

While software-defined networking (SDN) has emerged as the hottest topic in the networking space since the shift to IP networks began, what’s at stake goes well beyond control of the network.

SDN technology is at the core of next-generation integrated servers such as the recently launched PureSystems developed by IBM. According to Heidi Dethloff, IBM vice president of North America business partner and mid-market marketing, IBM PureSystems incorporates SDN technology that IBM gained with its acquisition of Blade Network Technologies in 2010.

In addition to being one of the first companies to support the emerging OpenFlow standard for SDNs in the form of the 10Gb Ethernet IBM RackSwitch G8264, Dethloff says IBM is now extending that concept into next-generation systems that unify the management of servers, storage and networking.

Every aspect of the data center before too long will soon be defined by software. That shift will not only make it easier to manage the data center, it will ultimately change the roles of whom manages what within the data center. In effect, the days when IT organizations needed specialists dedicated to managing servers, storage and networks are coming to a close. If fact, as part of an effort to facilitate that collaboration, IBM is making a case for a Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE) architecture that closely couples the management of virtual machines and switches to the network fabric.

It may still take a few years for all of that to play out from a standards perspective. But in the short term, IT organizations should expect to see any number of proprietary instances of highly integrated servers that will all come with some form of SDN technology already baked in.

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