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Using SDN (Software Defined Networking) to Improve Cloud Performance

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Cloud computing brings with it the promise of anytime, anywhere access, low capital expenses, high performance, high reliability, high scalability, and fast deployment. However, sluggish performance can temper even the highest of expectations. Just because it's "in the cloud" is no guarantee of performance. After all, data must still travel to and from the data center.

For example, if you are using an optimized network to access your Google Apps or cloud-based CRM, those applications will respond and deliver dramatically faster than if you used an inefficient network. If your cloud-based applications are sluggish and unpredictable, it may not be the cloud provider's problem. It might just be a problem with your network. By improving network performance, cloud performance improves as a result.

Software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization, and other concepts can be used to improve sluggish hardware and software performance in cloud-based and WAN environments.

What are SDN and Network Function Virtualization?

According to an article published last month on NetworkWorld.com, Impact of Today's Hardware and Software Applications in Cloud-based Environments: Part 1, Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization are two potential solutions to cloud performance issues. SDN dates back to about 2006 and has been used primarily for improving the performance of data centers. Network function virtualization is a newer technology that helps to improve network flexibility and service time-to-market.

Software defined networking essentially separates the network control plane from the forwarding, making it easier to optimize these separate planes individually. The benefits of using SDN include:

. Reduced capital and operational expenses - With SDN, the need for purchasing purpose-built, ASIC-based networking hardware is reduced. Because network elements are programmable and the network is controlled algorithmically, networks are easier to design, deploy, manage, and scale. This results in lower operational expenses and reduced human error.

. Improved flexibility and agility - Organizations can quickly respond to changing business needs.

Network function virtualization removes network functions from hardware appliances. These functions, such as DNS, caching, NAT, and intrusion detection no longer reside in dedicated hardware boxes; instead, they are handled by software. NFV can support a fully virtualized infrastructure and deliver similar benefits to SDN.

For example, since hardware requirements are reduced, operational expenses such as power and cooling expenses are also reduced. Perhaps the biggest benefit of NFV is that the time to deploy new networking services is dramatically reduced. NFV also allows for much faster scaling of services.

According to Aryaka, SDN concepts need to extend into the WAN to improve WAN performance. If limited to just the data center, as SDN is commonly used, only the data center will realize the full benefits. What about the WAN that accesses the data center?

Aryaka's global network has MPLS-like and SDN-like capabilities. Software elements, virtualized network functions, QoS, firewalls, and WAN Optimization solutions are built into the global network resulting in improved network and cloud performance.

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