Why SDN and Intent-based Networking for Edge Computing?

For many enterprises, the traditional, centralized data center is steadily becoming a part of the past. Compute power and storage capacity are increasingly distributed to the network edge, to facilitate faster, more secure, and more cost-effective analysis of the growing pool of data being generated by the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices and the expanding suite of cloud-delivered services. The trend toward distributed data centers creates the need for a new network architecture that not only disaggregates the network controller from underlying hardware in a “software-defined” approach, but that also takes the next step in becoming “intent-based.”

Software-defined networking (SDN) disaggregates the network controller software from underlying hardware, facilitating centralized visibility into and management of network resources as well as greater automation and programmability. As Storage Switzerland previously blogged, arguably one of the most significant benefits of SDN is the ability to scale the IT team; that is, to simplify operations enough that fewer network administrators (or even more of an IT generalist) can oversee a greater range of network infrastructure. This is a necessity when it comes to managing the inherently larger, more geographically distributed and complex networking implementations that are required to facilitate edge computing without drastically expanding the enterprise’s roster of IT administrators. Meanwhile, capabilities such as automated bandwidth allocation, device configuration and enforcement of security policies can streamline deployment of new devices, optimize utilization of existing infrastructure resources, and enhance the security of edge computing sites.

In the form of being more self-operating and scalable, SDN introduces a number of critical benefits and capabilities to edge data centers. However, SDN is largely reactive. Intent-based networking (IBN), though still in its infancy, stands to shift the network architecture into a more proactive change agent supporting business goals, or “intents.” Effectively, IBN software aggregates and analyzes telemetry data; it can provide predictive insights as well as take action based on the resulting insights. StorageSwiss has also previously published a deeper dive into what constitutes IBN, and how it differs from SDN.

As IBN solutions mature, they will further offload day-to-day management tasks – helping the team of network administrators to scale even further. For instance, IBN solutions can not only troubleshoot issues, but they can also act to remediate issues before they impact network performance. They can also extend capabilities such as authentication and access control across a vast number of heterogeneous devices. Furthermore, IBN can better position network administrators to respond to fluctuating, challenging-to-predict edge workload requirements that are characteristic of the distributed enterprise.

For more on SDN, IBN and the future of networking, access Storage Switzerland’s recent webinar with Pluribus Networks, The Software Matters in Open Networking, on demand.

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Senior Analyst, Krista Macomber produces analyst commentary and contributes to a range of client deliverables including white papers, webinars and videos for Storage Switzerland. She has a decade of experience covering all things storage, data center and cloud infrastructure, including: technology and vendor portfolio developments; customer buying behavior trends; and vendor ecosystems, go-to-market positioning, and business models. Her previous experience includes leading the IT infrastructure practice of analyst firm Technology Business Research, and leading market intelligence initiatives for media company TechTarget.

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