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Report: SDN Needs Work at Higher Networking Levels

The emerging software-defined networking (SDN) technology needs to address higher-level networking functionalities in order to help enterprises realize their goal of reduced operating expenses, according to a report from F5 Networks Inc.

"SDN has evolved into an architectural approach to operationalizing the network," F5 said in its report. "Organizations believe that programmatic methods for provisioning and automating the configuration of the network services are necessary to achieve the benefits of SDN they desire most: reduced operating expenses and improved time to market."

The problem from the point of view of F5 -- which is concerned with enterprise application delivery -- is that SDN is primarily targeting lower levels of the OSI networking model. For example, a key tenet of SDN is separation of the network control plane from the forwarding (or data) plane. F5 is concerned with higher levels of the seven-layer model: transport, session, presentation, and, at the top, application.

Reducing operating expenses, F5 said, "requires an approach that is inclusive of the Layer 4-7 services required to deliver secure, available, and fast applications. Without a comprehensive approach to SDN, organizations cannot realize its full potential nor achieve the goals it is designed for." The company's Web site indicates such a comprehensive approach might entail SDN and what it calls software-defined application services (SDAS).

Where are you with SDN, and why?
[Click on image for larger view.] Where are you with SDN, and why? (source: F5 Networks)

The survey of more than 300 organizations found that 43 percent of respondents had no plans to deploy SDN and 33 percent were evaluating it. Eight percent were running pilot programs, eight percent have initial implementations and eight percent have deployed it in production.

"As in the early stages of many technology deployments, the solution portfolio for SDN is not yet complete," F5 said. "Of the 57 percent of respondents who are evaluating, piloting, implementing, or currently using SDN in production, 64 percent agree that classic SDN is not well positioned to deliver the layer 4-7 application services they view as critical."

F5 noted that the number of respondents agreeing that SDN can't provide those upper-layer services that application delivery requires (64 percent) was about the same as the number who said they're considering using SDN to reduce expenses (67 percent).

"Perhaps the high percentage of respondents who don't believe SDN can provide these services might explain why 43 percent of respondents say they have no plans to deploy SDN," the company said.

In addition to SDN, the 16-page survey -- titled "The State of Application Delivery in 2015" -- touched upon application availability, security and programmability. The company plans a four-part webinar starting Jan. 28 to go further into the results.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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