It’s Time to Upgrade Your Network Infrastructure

GovLoop recently hosted an online training to help government understand the potential of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to improve network agility. Like any different technology advancement, new technologies can bring new challenges, and in order to capitalize on the latest developments, you must get your network in order.

Dr. Michael Valivullah, Chief Technology Officer, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), broke down for us what SDN is, its benefits, and how to leverage SDN at your agency.

SDN is a new software defined approach to design, build operate and manage networks. That’s all it is, a concept and a principle of managing networks,” said Dr. Valivullah. “A very important aspect of SDN is providing agility through abstraction, virtualization, quick policy implementation, fast provisioning and orchestration.”

As technologies like mobile, cloud and the Internet of Things continue to develop at a rapid pace, the underlying network infrastructure must also evolve. SDN has been developed in response to new network demands, providing improved network visibility and resiliency to support emerging technologies.

“SDN is one of the solutions that is going to help us solve the bottle necks in our data centers and challenge areas we are facing today,” said Dr. Valivullah. He mentioned that SDN is very similar to cloud a few years ago, when agencies and industry had multiple meanings and definitions. As cloud technology matured, so did the definitions and use cases, something that Dr. Valivullah expects to happen with SDN. Dr. Valivullah also walked us through some of the key architectural features of SDN:

  1. Control and data planes are decupled but tightly integrated.
  2. Network state and intelligence is logically centralized.
  3. Underlying network infrastructures are abstracted from network application and features. “This is important because you will be able to program the app layers and have external control of applications that gives you full control. You can change the network architecture without ever touching a switch or router,” said Dr. Valivullah.
  4. Programmability enables external control and automation
  5. Highly scalable and flexible networks that can quickly adapt to changing business needs.

Although Dr. Valivullah provided some of the features of SDN implementation, he cautioned that everyone deploys SDN differently. “You have different architectures and methods of implementing SDN, so open source may or may not be a fit, but you need to find [an architecture] that fits for you, and there is no magic bullet to do this.”

He advised that prior to implementation, agencies should focus on the business problems they are trying to solve, and work closely with business units and teams to address concerns. Only by collaborating across teams can agencies learn if there are similar implementations or programs already underway, and learn from those experiences.

“SDN is a very exciting field, and moving very fast. The opportunities are very many. You need to decide if SDN is applicable to you, how far you can go, and how fast you can go. These are the things you need to decide for your organization,” said Dr. Valivullah. “Also you need to know what kind of training and HR opportunities you can provide for your folks to move ahead and provide the high level of public service we are called to do.”


Watch the online training here.


Photo Credit: FlickR Creative Commons, Norlando Pobre

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