SDN and the Rise of Network Automation
We've automated our deployments, our infrastructure, and our tests, and now we're in the middle of automating our networks.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The future of networking is network automation. This is arguably what DevOps already wants, as a fundamental goal of DevOps is automation.
Networking on the other hand, has needed some technological innovation to make this possible. The first was allowing software to control hardware. We already know software is going to eat the world, but network switch manufacturers have been trying to prevent this as long as possible.
In order for this to occur, hardware had to become generic. Once generic, this gave rise to the software defined network (SDN).
As a result, SDN will give rise to full network automation. The question is, is your organization ready for it?
Software Defined Networking
Software defined networking finds a nice home in the DevOps conversation. Infrastructure as code makes this possible.
SDN is controlling your network with the application of code. It is as simple as that. It is also more complex than that. There is a reason why SDN gets significant push back. Networking is complex, and if a network is not set up properly, SDN is not possible. Thus, SDN consideration is necessary in the manual network setup process.
This means employing white-box switches and installing Linux. This initial setup can make or break SDN. This process fits with the current DevOps mindset and provides the necessary infrastructure for network automation.
I would argue one of the ultimate goals of SDN is network automation.
What Makes Network Automation Possible?
Ultimately, software defined networking is what makes network automation possible. The conversation is more complex than this. Network automation is possible because hardware has allowed it to be possible. SDN is only possible because hardware has become generic.
When hardware is generic, software controls it independent from the hardware. Let us take the personal computer for example.
When PC hardware became a commodity, this allowed any operating system to be written on top of it. The result was we got Windows and Linux, which are the two biggest names. Mac OS is unique as it is written and runs only on Apple hardware.
Mobile is seeing the same thing with commodity mobile devices that run Android, and Windows with Nokia.
This is the same progression with networking switches. Switches are now a commodity, so there is an easy way to run software, such as OpenFlow, on top of them. This is what makes network automation possible.
Network Automation is NetDevOps
Hardware has made the implementation of network automation possible. Now we need to see organizations move in this direction. This requires a mindset and cultural shift.
What DevOps has done for automation in software development, NetDevOps is going to do for automation in networking. Using NetDevOps is a way to bring your organization's cultural mindset from one of manual, one-off scripts, to a replicable and scalable system. This accomplishes the following:
No fat fingers
Automate repetitive tasks
Reproduce and dispose things
DevOps is the conversation that applies to the entire team. To fully integrate the networking team, NetDevOps is the perfect place to begin. It will bring a DevOps mindset to networking, and with this cultural shift, you can better integrate networking into DevOps.
Generic hardware has made SDN possible, which is what makes network automation possible. Now it is time to bring the network automation conversation to your organization and find what works for your current infrastructure.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.