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Microsoft Hops On Software-Defined Bandwagon

If there was any doubt, here's proof the software-defined networking (SDN) movement has gone mainstream: Microsoft is fully on board.

The company is pitching its new Windows Server 2016 as the perfect platform for running a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC), with its new "Software Defined Network (SDN) Stack" playing a key role.

A new Networking Blog post -- "Network Virtualization in the Windows Server 2016 Software Defined Networking (SDN) Stack" -- goes into the underlying technical details.

Windows Server 2016 provides "new layers of security and Azure-inspired innovation for hosting business applications and infrastructure," reads the post, just published yesterday. The new SDN stack, meanwhile, "provides agility, dynamic security, and hybrid flexibility by enforcing network policy in the Hyper-V Virtual Switch using the Azure Virtual Filtering Platform (VFP) Switch Extension."

The company's SDN site starts out with an overview of the technology:

Software Defined Networking (SDN) provides a method to centrally configure and manage physical and virtual network devices such as routers, switches, and gateways in your datacenter....

Software defined networking is possible because the network planes -- the management, control, and data planes -- are no longer bound to the network devices themselves, but are abstracted for use by other entities, such as datacenter management software like System Center.

That site also goes into detail about each of the Windows Server technologies that enable SDN, including: Network Controller; Hyper-V Network Virtualization; Hyper-V Virtual Switch; Internal DNS Service (iDNS); Network Function Virtualization; Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) and Switch Embedded Teaming (SET); RAS Gateway for SDN; and Software Load Balancing (SLB).

For example, just in the section for network functions virtualization (NFV) -- a close cousin to SDN -- Microsoft lists the following supporting technologies:

  • Software Load Balancer (SLB) and Network Address Translation (NAT). The north-south and east-west layer 4 load balancer and NAT enhances throughput by supporting Direct Server Return, with which the return network traffic can bypass the Load Balancing multiplexer.
  • Datacenter Firewall. This distributed firewall provides granular access control lists (ACLs), enabling you to apply firewall policies at the VM interface level or at the subnet level.
  • Gateways. You can use gateways for bridging traffic between virtual networks and non-virtualized networks; specifically, you can deploy site-to-site VPN gateways, forwarding gateways, and Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) gateways. In addition, M+N redundancy of gateways is supported.

And, with its unrelenting focus on cloud computing with its Azure platform, Microsoft brings that into the act in addition to Windows Server 2016. "Microsoft's approach to software defined networking includes designing, building, and operating global-scale datacenter networks for services like Microsoft Azure," the company said. "Microsoft Azure global datacenters perform tens of thousands of network changes every day, which is possible only because of software defined networking." For more on Microsoft's Azure-related SDN initiatives, see this article on our sister site, RedmondMag.com: "Network Control in the Azure Cloud."

Further solidifying its embrace of SDN, Microsoft also provides links for learning about planning SDN, deploying SDN, managing tenant workloads and virtual networks and troubleshooting SDN. It also hosts a GitHub repository that includes "PowerShell scripts and VMM service templates for setting up the Microsoft Software Defined Networking (SDN) Stack using Windows Server 2016."

For more on the new Windows Server 2016, see this extensive article on RedmondMag.com: "Microsoft Makes the Case for Windows Server 2016."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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