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Improving network management with software defined networking

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2 Author(s)

Network management is challenging. To operate, maintain, and secure a communication network, network operators must grapple with low-level vendor-specific configuration to implement complex high-level network policies. Despite many previous proposals to make networks easier to manage, many solutions to network management problems amount to stop-gap solutions because of the difficulty of changing the underlying infrastructure. The rigidity of the underlying infrastructure presents few possibilities for innovation or improvement, since network devices have generally been closed, proprietary, and vertically integrated. A new paradigm in networking, software defined networking (SDN), advocates separating the data plane and the control plane, making network switches in the data plane simple packet forwarding devices and leaving a logically centralized software program to control the behavior of the entire network. SDN introduces new possibilities for network management and configuration methods. In this article, we identify problems with the current state-of-the-art network configuration and management mechanisms and introduce mechanisms to improve various aspects of network management. We focus on three problems in network management: enabling frequent changes to network conditions and state, providing support for network configuration in a highlevel language, and providing better visibility and control over tasks for performing network diagnosis and troubleshooting. The technologies we describe enable network operators to implement a wide range of network policies in a high-level policy language and easily determine sources of performance problems. In addition to the systems themselves, we describe various prototype deployments in campus and home networks that demonstrate how SDN can improve common network management tasks.

Published in:

Communications Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:51 ,  Issue: 2 )