Monday, June 27, 2016

SD-WAN – a.k.a. A Three Stranded Cord Is Not Easily Broken

Many of us have heard the adage: "A Three Stranded Cord is Not Easily Broken."  Inherently, we understand that this is true. We see this in demonstrated for example when we purchase rope: lots of strings intertwined.  Over the years as the cords weaken, one may break but the rope still holds.  With this basic explanation, you now understand SD-WAN.  


Now let me explain a little further.

Whenever a new technology solution arrives on the scene it takes a while before its widespread adoption. Part of the reason is that new terms are created and blended with our existing vocabulary creating confusion. SD-WAN is a new technology born out of a recognition that one of the major expenses for many organizations is their bandwidth.  Over the years numerous technologies have been introduced to reduce these cost:
  • MUXes
  • Voice over Frame-Relay
  • VoIP
  • WAN Optimizers

Just to name a few.  

The carriers have also been trying to stretch and maximize their investments. For most of us the network has become a utility.  We expect an always on network and use it constantly. Just look around, the proliferation of hand held mobile devices with a plethora of applications that allow non-stop communication, entertainment, and access to information (Maps, Google, Starbucks) has created a demand for bandwidth that is frankly challenging to meet.  Each of the respective carriers is adding bandwidth daily.  I work with a number of them and Time Warner, AT&T and others are laying fiber all over metropolitan areas.  Private companies have cropped up that lay and sell both dark and lit fiber. 

We also see that the cellular companies are adding and upgrading cell sites and working to partner with other cellular companies to exchange bandwidth. The appetite for bandwidth is so high that 3rd party companies are building cell sites and selling or renting them to the highest bidder. 

Enough said, back to SD-WAN.

This demand for higher amounts bandwidth is a challenge for most, if not all, organizations. Every CIO is faced with the need to increase the amount of bandwidth, while trying to maintain costs. IT Budgets are consistently flat¹ and 80% of the IT budget is spent just maintaining the status quo. The reality of today is that the network IS a utility and if it goes down, most organizations come to a grinding halt. “All the while, of course, the IT department is expected to deliver value for money by minimizing capital expenditure and operational costs wherever possible.” ²  My focus is SDN over SPB, and while I seek to build secure, resilient, "always on" infrastructures that are easy to manage and deploy, eventually we have to leave the premise and traverse the WAN. Whenever I have to extend my network fabric over the WAN I am faced with the reality that the single MPLS pipe they pay for becomes my single point of failure. It doesn’t matter that my SDN network built on SPB has sub-second failover, if that WAN link is the only link, my network is down. Those virtual servers and applications are cutoff from the users. I now bring in my carriers and help the customers to create a more resilient WAN. 

Enter in SD WAN.   

Talari and other companies have developed technologies and algorithms that allow the bonding together of multiple lower costs links from different carriers into a single, higher aggregate bandwidth pipe, that has higher availability and throughput than a traditional more expensive MPLS network. In addition, because we have spread the bandwidth over different medium (cable, fiber, G4, etc), and different companies, the failure of any one link does not bring the network down and is therefore more resilient. So, the adage:  A three stranded cord… applies. 

There are a number of organizations that are offering SD-WAN³, and there are a number of great white papers available⁴ for those of you that would like to get a better understanding of what, how, who, etc.  Most traditional router/WAN Optimize vendors have begun to develop products in this area, so make sure, when investigating them to do your research. I work with a number of carriers and they are starting to include this as part of their service. They provide multiple connections over different technologies and incorporate the SD-WAN service as a bundle. I suspect that this trend will become common place. It seems like a win-win to me. As with most technologies today, there are hosted and premise offerings and many include firewalls, etc.  Make sure if you opt for a hosted solution, that behind the scenes, they are not creating a single point of failure. As always: Caveat Emptor a.k.a. get references. 

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Shhh… It's a secret! Third Party Maintenance

Ever find out about something new only to find out that it wasn't really new at all? Not only that, but that many before you had made the discovery and were already reaping the benefits.   That's fine, as Alexander Pope said:  "Be not the 1st by which a new thing is tried, nor the last to lay the old aside."  So, rather than lamenting over what cannot be reclaimed, I have come to embrace that I am now blessed with the ability to take advantage of it and can't wait to share the news with others, who like me were previously in the dark.

For years I had been working with customers and encouraging them to make sure to keep their equipment warrantied by the manufacturer.  Advising them "Don't go on the tightrope without a net."  The risks to the business were too critical. 

Fast forward to today.  80% of our customers IT budgets are spent to maintain status quo and a large portion of this it tied to vendor maintenance.  That leaves only 20% of their budgets available to bring on new applications that enable the organizations to take advantage of the technologies and services I offer.  Technologies and services that can bring about transformation of their businesses.   In trying to solve this conundrum for our customers and help them to recognize the benefits of revitalizing their organizations through improved communications services, I stumbled upon Third Party Maintenance (TPM).  These TPM Services offer lower cost technical support for the key vendor offerings.  I am talking substantially reduced rates with easier administration because they are provided through a single source.   So we have centralized contract and support administration.  Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus!  The same technical support for products and applications, hardware replacement, patching, etc.  So how is it that I never knew about this?  Well reality is that the Vendors are never going to share this information, they count on maintenance dollars.  Many sell hardware just to get the maintenance.  So, and unless you were among the select group of companies using these services by these exclusive organizations, you didn't realize it.  Recently however, Gartner, Forrester and IDC² all published articles on the topic and so the secret is out.  Savings can be achieved in a number of key areas:

1.       Lower Hardware Replacement costs
2.       Reduced TAC (Technical Assistance Centers) - Live help
3.       Eliminated Software Support costs
4.       Extended refresh cycles on hardware and software

This is really good news for all of us.  These saving can be used to accomplish a number of key initiatives such as funding for: 

1.       Outsourcing IT to a managed service  - allowing exiting staff to refocus on core competencies and project completion
2.       New technology introduction (SPB/SDN) that will enable faster, non-disruptive new application introduction
3.       New applications that improve business processes and revitalize communications
4.       Additional staffing, enabling project completion

Now, "any change, even for the better is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts¹".
For example: 

Quality Concerns:  Some will be will be fearful that they will not get the same levels and quality of service.   This was my initial concern, but having investigated this a bit, and seeing organizations such as Walt Disney, I was put at ease.  Disney does NOT accept lower quality service, I suspect that it is actually better.
 
Vendor Resistance:  Guaranteed, you will hear resistance and pushback from the Vendors.  No doubt, your Cisco Rep is NOT going to be happy to see you cut off SmartNet (Smart for them, expensive for you).   Maybe a few less Box Tickets to your favorite sporting events.

Refresh Policies:  You may also need to redo some long engrained policies around hardware refresh.   But Gartner/Forrester/IDC are all saying the same thing:  Why replace equipment that is performing the exact same function it was when purchased and that is still working, has an MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) of 15+ Years?²

So, consider a change that will allow you to be the hero to the team, because you will be able to say yes to some of the projects on hold for budget, and can help your organization begin its transformation.

¹ Arnold Bennett
² Challenging the Status Quo on Maintenance Contracts and Refresh Cycles to Lower Costs

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Exactly is the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things/Internet of Anything/BYOT (Bring Your Own Thing)?  Pick one.  They all work.

I apologize in advance for the excessive use of alphabet soup acronyms, it is the way of the industry.  If you don't know what they are, Wikipedia is a good start.

What exactly is the Internet of Things?  It is a world where IP addresses are applied to non-traditional network devices that allows them to be controlled by network management (Software Define Networking/SDN).  It is kind of humorous, but a perfect example is seen in YouTube videos that people post.  Videos of them watching their pets on their PC's/Smart Phones, doing the oddest things while they are away via IP cameras installed in their homes.

All this is done is being transmitted over the Internet.  Your turn. You think of something you'd like to do.  How about being able to check your groceries in when placing them into your refrigerator or freezer, track the contents and create recipes based on what you have on hand?

Yes, you could correlate what you have in your cupboards to recipes on the Internet, even tie them to your diet preferences (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Low Fat, Low Carb, and Weight Watchers) and voila!  You now have a meal based on what you have on hand, or even, create a shopping list based on what you have used.  No longer do you need to call some to check to see if you need milk, etc.  You just login to your home and check to see if there is milk in your refrigerator.

Far-fetched?  Not really.  The capabilities exist today.  The concept of tying your devices to  a network (home or office) and the Internet and then doing a Mashup¹ to combine the information with other information available on the Internet to create useful usable knowledge from information.

Another example is aligned with the PoE+ standards.  PoE+ (Power over Ethernet)  The updated IEEE 802.3at-2009[7] PoE standard also known as PoE+ ² that allows devices that are not traditionally considered network devices (lights, HVAC [*Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning], water heaters, refrigeration, and other devices) to be IP enabled and thus monitored and controlled by standard network protocols (Ethernet/IP(Internet Protocol)/SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)).

Beyond this there is the draft-unbehagen-11dp-spb-00, dated December 31, 2014, that speaks to an extension of the RFC 6329³ to allow Auto Attachment of devices to an SPB (Shortest Path Bridged Network 802.1aq)⁴ network using the LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol- 802.1AB)⁵.  This means that dumb devices, like unto Wireless Access Points (APs), Cameras, LED Lighting, etc. could be provisioned to use the existing protocols as defined by the IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) to attach to a network and securely connect to the appropriate services.

What it means to businesses?  A worker or person (perhaps your Grandmother) that knows nothing about networking can connect these devices to an Ethernet port and it will auto-provision.

I promise you I am not purposely intending to confuse you by using all these acronyms.  

Once connected to the network these devices can be remotely monitored and controlled by a person or persons that is authorized to do the provisioning.  It is all there, pre-built and it makes complete sense.  Every day, new devices are being added to the list of IP/Internet enabled devices can connect to an Ethernet PoE+ switch, get power and automatically join the network and be securely managed.

Over the next few years, you can expect to hear about smart buildings that have very low power consumption (PoE+) partly due to the use of lighting products that are comprised of LEDs that require minimal power and phones and devices that connect to the Ethernet switches to get power an allow control.   These smart buildings will be able to be fully automated via software to meet the needs of the tenants, while maximizing the efficiency and customizing the facilities to meet the specific needs of the occupants.   I am looking forward to the day when every office has its own climate control.

Ordinarily, my immediate concern would be for security, but thanks to SPB (802.1aq & RFC 6329) these networks can be stealth networks (read that as invisible) and therefore inaccessible to malevolent probing entities.  The Access Control will be defined in Software Profiles (SDN -Software Defined Networks).  So, the access to the network and control will be restricted to those users on approved devices, having the proper security profiles.   No hijacking of the network, no ransoms.

Tomorrow is a whole new world, and with the IOT and BYOT (Bring Your Own Thing) you will find happier employers and employees.  No longer will a bright, talented worker arrive at an organization only to receive two year old technology.  Instead, they will bring their computing device of choice (MAC, Android, Windows, and Linux) to the job and it will attach to the network with a profile that grants it access to only those records that are necessary to perform their duties.

The companies will no longer have to concern themselves with the capital and operational expenditures for PCs, Phones, Tablets, etc.  Each user will bring their own (they may need to provide some monitors and/or universal docking stations).  Cabling will be minimized, also reducing costs.  As WiFi matures and we move into 802.11ac Phase 2, speeds and densities will be sufficient to untether our users and allow them to work….where ever:  Where ever they are, on whatever device they choose, using whatever mode they prefer (Text/IM, Voice, Video, Immersive Collaboration).

So, let your imagination go and imagine what Thing you will attach.

The IoT Playbook for Wireless LAN

References:  
¹ "A mashup, in web development, is a web page, or web application, that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface. 

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_(web_application_hybrid)> "
² PoE plus, provides up to 25.5 W of power.[8] The 2009 standard prohibits a powered device from using all four pairs for power.[9]

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_over_Ethernet> 
³ RFC 6329 - An IETF Standards Track defining the extensions to the IS-IS standards for Shortest Path Bridging 802.1aq using SPBM (MAC-in-MAC 802.1ah) and SPBV (Virtual LANs).
⁴SPB (Shortest Path Bridged Network 802.1aq) - IETF Standard that defines shortest path forwarding in a mesh Ethernet network using multiple equal cost paths.
⁵LLDP Link Layer Discovery Protocol, an IEEE Standard for LAN/MAN Media Access Control Connectivity Discovery

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Electrical_and_Electronics_Engineers> 

⁶SDN is an evolving standard based on both Open Flow/Open Stack that allows centralized control to network access.  Specific deployment options vary from Vendor to Vendor.  SDN is championed by numerous organizations including ONF (Open Networking Foundation), IEEE, Avaya, HP, Sun, etc.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

To the Future Employees of Information Technology

This week, I had the honor of addressing the graduating class of 2016 at ITT Technical Institute. Many students received degrees in IT, business, computer science, electrical and industrial engineering, drafting and design, project management, network systems administration IS and Cybersecurity.

That their program includes Cybersecurity got me excited. As we all know, ransomware attacks have become more and more prevalent. Emerging technologies such as SDN and SPB are designed to negate this danger for networks. The solutions are available TODAY and these graduates will be the ones to protect their future employer’s networks from hackers and cyber stalkers.

I spoke to these future employees about why it’s a great time to enter into the industry. I shared that when certain pivotal technology is introduced, it becomes an enabler of a whole new era of possibilities, pointing out that nearly two-thirds of the jobs that will exist in the future – jobs that these graduates will eventually occupy - haven't even been named. Some good examples:  Graphic Artist?  CAD Engineer?  Web Developer?  Who heard of them 20 years ago?  The evolution of these technologies bring about improvements and widespread adoption and availability to the general population.  Whole new industries are born with endless possibilities and exciting careers!


We live in a time that this evolution is propelling us forward at a rate that previously only existed in science fiction and the movies.  This new generation of IT focused students will be part of this transformation, if they chose to. I hope they do.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Magic Quadrant Leader Mitel Looking To Go Bigger

A Mitel/Polycom merger would certainly be advantageous to both organizations.  Mitel has a solid Voice/UC footprint and history.  They recently have made a number of noteworthy acquisitions (PrairieFyre/Oaisys/Aastra/Mavenir) and partnerships (Vidyo/LiveOps) that they have been able to capitalize on.  This track record is evidence of a company with a good grasp of the industry and trends.  With the acquisition of Aastra, Mitel has a large hosted footprint and the ability to provide a hybrid solution to meet the real-time communications needs of an increasingly mobile and dispersed workforce will ensure they are invited to the table. 

The Mitel/Polycom blend would bring both organizations into a key position for hosted, mobile and IP endpoints.  In addition, with the widespread acceptance and expectation of immersive UC that allows anywhere collaboration across diverse endpoints, the merger would make them a de facto leader in this space. 

This is certainly something to keep an eye on.  Shoretel, are you sure you don’t want to be acquired? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Ounce of Prevention

We have all heard the adage that "An Ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of cure".   While we instinctively know this, do you know how it applies to your business infrastructure?  Today, businesses have become inexorably dependent on business critical applications that are comprised of software, hardware and services.  These components are interdependent, creating delicate links in a chain that has been termed the "Application Delivery Chain".  What this means is that many of your applications are dependent on each other and most assuredly the servers and networks that support them.  Keeping these mission critical applications at peak performance is the primary directive for IT Professionals.  The demand for new applications, coupled with burgeoning use of edge computing, and the need to keep the current systems operational may lead to overlooking the importance of day to day preventative steps and/or underlying infrastructure requirements.

Early in my career, while a support specialist to both customers and their end-users we found that 85% of all tickets were the result of what we refer to as Layer 1 issues:  Cable/Power/Connectivity?   With nostalgia, I could tell stories that would make you smile.  You know, the ones where you ask them what position the "ON" Slash "OFF button is in, or what, if any lights are illuminated on the device?  And while we have come a long way since those days, end user experience and user interface is still king.

Below is a list of the top causes of communications outages:[1]
1. Faults, errors or discards in network devices
2. Device configuration changes
3. Operational human errors and mismanagement of devices - (22%)[2]
4. Link failure caused due to fiber cable cuts or network congestion
5. Power outages
6. Server hardware failure (55%) [2]
7. Security attacks such as denial of service (DoS)
8. Failed software and firmware upgrade or patches (18%) [2]
9. Incompatibility between firmware and hardware device
10. Unprecedented natural disasters and ad hoc mishaps on the network such as a minor accidents, or even as unrelated as a rodent chewing through a network line, etc

One of the major vendors found while researching their customer support history that they had five major causes for communications outages. [3]
1. Power  outage
2. Lack of routine maintenance
3. Hardware failure 55%
4. Software bug / Corruption
5. Network issue/outages
[3] The Essential Guide to Avoiding Network Outages

What's more important is the percentage of time the outage could have been prevented had standard best practices been followed: [3]
1. Power outage (81%)
2. Lack of routine maintenance (78%)
3. Hardware failure (52%)
4. Software bug / Corruption (34%)
5. Network issue/Outage (27%)

This downtime is costly and can be defined in both hard and soft dollars.  For the purposes of this discussion, let’s define hard dollars as the expenses incurred directly to bring the systems back online:  Hardware, labor, tech support, etc.) and soft dollars as the indirect costs such as loss of employee productivity, loss of business, dissatisfied customers, customer perceptions, customer loss of confidence, etc..   With these definitions in mind, considered the impact to your business in soft dollars in the event of an outage? [4] If you are an online or transactional business, your competitor is just one click away.   We must face the reality that we live in the age of the consumer.  No longer do customers need to wait for you, they can locate an alternative to you in a New York minute (that’s fast).  We live in a world that expects real-time communications.    And frankly, your customers are no longer willing to wait.

So, just as we understand that we should drink more water, eat healthy and exercise more to prevent health issues, we also need to apply this to our communications infrastructure.  When was the last time you did an assessment on your systems?  No one wants to be caught saying to management, that the RCA(root cause analysis) shows that the reason for a major outage was due to a failure on your team to follow well known industry standard best practices.  Most manufacturers offer a maintenance policy on hardware and software and their vendors offer complimentary packages that provide the expertise to perform these actions on your behalf.

We have seen an alarming trend in the industry to cut costs by dropping maintenance services and to "self-insure".  While this may offer short term operational cost savings, when the outages occur the time to recover results in an overall higher cost.  A prime example is that of backups.  We all know we should perform backups, but did you know that the time to recover from an outage with a valid backup is 1/15th the time of the restore with a valid backup. [3] The degree of recovery is also proportional.  Just as with health issues, sometimes full recovery is never achieved.  The overall cost to the business can be catastrophic.  In a survey of companies that experienced outages, the average loss for a small business was $55,000, mid-sized company averaged more than $91,000 and large companies over $1,000,000. [4]   The good news is that there are lower cost maintenance offerings to keep costs down and offset the costs and still provide full coverage. [5]

As our dependence on applications continues to increase, the servers and networks over which they ride become increasingly relevant.  In addition, the trend to virtualization, both server and network virtualization, has brought about an increasingly distributed network.  The current imperative is to maintain the end user experience.  IT professionals need the ability to monitor the overall network as it pertains to the user experience from an individual application perspective.  Many factors converge influence the user experience:  application code, edge computing devices with their resources (CPU, Memory, storage and network access method), the internal and external networks with their delicate protocol layers used carry the interactions and the servers with their respective resources.



The good news is that with the advances made by SPB and SDN, the network and associated infrastructure, which is the most pervasive part of the delivery chain, can now exist to serve and support applications.   The new breed of tools emerging provide the ability an end-to-end view of the entire application delivery chain with the ability to drill down to any infrastructure element or method deep within the application [6].  These tools give the ability to easily determine the source of the delay (application, server, client, network, etc.)



So, where to start?  Begin by doing a risk assessment. You'll want to assess your network, power, systems, security, services, etc. and put together a list of actions to take based on the level of risk.  If you don't have the time or skill set, hire someone to do this, they will provide you reports of system status, risk levels and offer recommendations for remediation. Some of the fixes will be simple (do backups), others may require a minimal spend (replace aging batteries, clean the telecom room), to be sure, some will involve maintenance windows to update software to current release and a few may actually save you money (such as a telecom assessment that reduces overall spend and identifies unused services that you are still paying for).   Many consulting groups have a specific vertical that they specialize in (Medical, Retail, Warehousing) and will understand your business and provide excellent input on new technologies that will help you achieve your business goals and maybe even define some new ones.  Depending on the size and complexity of your network, you may be surprised how the latest advancements in systems will allow you to centralize control and monitoring of your overall network, and provide risk free methods to quickly introduce new applications and services that management determines are needed to grow the business.

In the end, your goal will be to have a stable, resilient system that is easy to maintain and that provides the users (customers and employees) an efficient, positive experience that allows them to do whatever it is that they set out to do, whether it be to make a purchase or enable employees to provide your customer's an excellent experience.

References:Dynatrace, 2016[1} From <https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/geek-speak_tht/blog/2013/08/29/top-10-reasons-for-network-downtime> [2} http://www.continuitycentral.com/news06645.html[3] The Essential Guide to Avoiding Network Outages[4] http://www.informationweek.com/it-downtime-costs-$265-billion-in-lost-revenue/d/d-id/1097919?[5] https://www.gartner.com/doc/2978417/usedhardware-resellers-offer-hardware-support[6]  http://innetworktech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Convergence-of-NPM-and-APM.pdf

Friday, August 28, 2015

Software Defined Networks (SDN) - The Next Trend in Networking

Every once in a while a protocol is named so succinctly that in a few brief words the explanation is actually embedded within the name.  SDN is a good example of a name that says so much.  For the newcomer to the world of networking these three words may seem nebulous, and for those of you who have seen the evolution, the terms take on new meaning.

This article will explore what this simple name means and why this standard is attracting so much attention.


Exhibit A
Let's start with the word "Networking".   Whenever the industry experts discuss networking they all refer to the OSI model which describes the functions performed at each of the seven layers.  For those of you that need a refresher, refer to our Exhibit A.  While "networking" does involve all seven layers, most industry experts and analysts are commonly referring to the Data Link/Network/Transport/Session layers when they use the term "network".  Within these layers are the appliances that users connect to that contain the intelligence to forward and route data frames/packets.

Today these appliances are known as switches. Universally they all support Ethernet (the current
defacto data link standard) at its various speeds (10/100/1000 mb).  Some offer PoE and L3 (routing), almost all support SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol).  There are also firewalls, Session Border Controllers, traditional routers and some gateways.   The amalgamation of these devices with their interconnections is known collectively as "the network".  Below in our Exhibit B is a depiction of a typical network that shows the various components and where they are deployed.  These networks have been built, managed, and maintained by highly skilled individuals that perform magic that allows end users to connect various devices (PCs, printers, servers) to run the applications that mere mortals use to work, play, and interact.
Exhibit B

Ever since Radia Perlman defined the Spanning Tree protocol/802.1d to solve the issue of loops in bridged networks, networking architects have been formulating new and creative protocols to overcome the challenges that have arisen as the IoT (Internet of Things) sprang into being.  Considering that the versions of the standards are defined with letters and that the current standard is 802.1aq, it is obvious that many iterations of the standards have been previously published. Each iteration had been written to resolve a challenge that was encountered as new applications and uses for the Internet were introduced.

While each of these standards resolved an issue, they also put an additional burden on the network administrators who had to learn how to deploy these protocols and perform even greater and more complex forms of magic on the network.  This new magic was layered on top of the old magic creating a complex set of steps that had to be performed repeatedly on each device in the network, resulting in a manually configured and defined network.

Networking vendors have all tried to overcome this complexity with proprietary management systems that allow the administrators to control various components from a centralized management console.  The engineers could access the individual appliances from this console and write and execute the complex scripts necessary to configure the devices, and then rollout, audit, and rollback changes made to the network (provided they had connectivity).  These management applications could also be used to monitor the overall health of the network and devices.  While this was substantially better than telnetting to each device and executing the changes manually or via scripts. It still required touching each device and an intimate knowledge of the network design and configuration, as well as the protocols and how they were implemented on each of the different elements.

Today, the great minds of the Internet (IEEE/IETF members) have come together to develop a standard that incorporates all the industry's "best practices" for each of the underlying networking protocols; network and endpoint security, and application and endpoint performance into a common management and control plane. This protocol will allow the administrators to Define profiles for users, devices, applications, etc. via Software for the Network.  These definitions will then be pushed out to the network. When an application, user, or device attempts to join or transmit on the network, the pre-defined rules (profiles) will determine IF that application, user, or device may enter the network. Once access is gained, SDN will define what level of access it will have and what level of performance it will receive.

As always, there are a number of competing standards being proposed and championed by different manufacturers.  The good news is that they are being rolled out, tested, and updated quickly.  The reason behind this rapid acceptance and testing is that the industry understands that the IoT (Internet of Things) is here and that every day new devices are joining the network using Ethernet with PoE.  "New devices" include LED lighting, fire alarms, smoke detectors, paging systems, IP cameras, refrigerators, thermostats, etc.  The value to the world is so tangible that there is no waiting. The Smart Buildings of the future will actually use less electricity and low voltage wiring using Ethernet with PoE is so safe and cost effective that the adoption rate is skyrocketing.

To enable SDN, the network must be equipped with technologies such as SPB (Shortest Path Bridging/802.1aq).  This is because when the network is comprised of these smart devices they automagically configure the best available paths from the devices (Ingress) to the applications (Egress) using the industry's best practices.  The network administrators no longer configure the individual components, they merely configure the ingress and egress (entry and exit points), and the "network" self-configures to establish the communications path. This of course is predicated on the device, user, and/or applications having permission to access the network based on the rules/profiles set by SDN.  The SDN controller (aka management station) is where the administrator defines the rules. Once defined, these rules are pushed to the network and therefore the controller is not a single point of failure.

SDN
Too good to be true?  Nah… the team of experts (IEEE/IETF members) understands that the rules, no matter how seemingly complex, are configurable and therefore they can be incorporated into the new 802.1 standards.  They just had to be codified aka SPB/SDN.

The current version of SDN still requires the configuration of the ingress/egress. The next iteration of SDN will allow auto-configuration based on the rules.  Impossible you say?  Nope, it will take a similar approach as DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).  The device will connect, identify itself, the user and the application, and then the network will look up the rules/profile and allow only and exactly what the profile says.

In conclusion, since everything has moved to the network, businesses that are looking to do more with less complexity, expense, delay, and risk, and with greater speed, security, and ease of management should be seriously investigating how to introduce SDN into their network.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.