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FCW : December 2013
totypes to "distributed scienti c environments and campus infrastructure," according to NSF. "I think we are going to learn a lot from these deploy- ments, and people will adjust exactly how they do it based on the outcomes," Lyles said. The Defense Department is also looking into the possibil- ity of using SDN to support its mission, he added. Sudhir Verma, chief technology of cer at federal IT solu- tions provider Force 3, cited the intelligence community as an early adopter. Overall, he said he expects SDN to sig- ni cantly in uence government networks, although most agencies won t feel an immediate impact. "Like any new technology that is this disruptive, the adop- tion rate is not going to be full- edged on Day One," Verma said. "But SDN is de nitely going to change the way we look at networks." The fundamentals SDN separates the task of determining how traf c will traverse a network from the task of delivering the data. An application called an SDN controller manages the ow of traf c, and the various network devices --- routers and switches --- focus on moving the data around. That division of labor allows IT managers to program all the devices on a network via a single software controller. Thus, SDN promises to simplify network administration by speeding up traditionally time-consuming, labor-intensive tasks and potentially saving money. Programmability also makes the network more exible and responsive to changes, such as shifting traf c patterns. SDN "moves the complexity of the network...up into the software layer," said Joe Brown, president of Accelera Solu- tions. "That gives you much more exibility. You can make quick con guration changes." In addition, SDN dovetails with the scalability of cloud computing. "SDN is a key component in building out both public and private clouds," said Patrick Stevenson, systems engineer- ing manager at Citrix Systems U.S. Public Sector. "It brings the network and applications together into a cohesive eco- system and wraps it with a solution where automation and programmatic changes can easily occur in order to scale and meet customer demand." SDN is the latest in a series of steps to make networks more agile. Its technological forerunners have been around for years, and NSF has funded many of those earlier devel- December 2013 FCW.COM 29 How SDN works Software-de ned networking separates the system that determines how traf c is sent from the underlying system that forwards data to the appropriate destination. The SDN controller manages the ow of traf c, and the various routers and switches focus on moving the data. SDN s promise of greater exibility, lower costs and simpli ed management has implications for federal mandates related to cloud computing, virtualization and data center consolidation. Application Application Application Application APIs Switch Virtual Switch Switch Router OpenFlow protocol SDN controller
November 30, 2013