Data Centers

Do your SDN homework: Read about solutions from Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, Arista

This list of software-defined networking (SDN) solutions from Cisco, Juniper, Arista, and Brocade highlights each option's key attributes.

Image: Arista

Traditional network vendors are charging hard into the software-defined networking (SDN) space. I provide a brief overview of the current SDN offerings from Juniper Networks, Arista, Brocade, and Cisco Systems.

Juniper

Juniper is using the OpenContrail vRouter as the foundation of its SDN solution. vRouter is similar to Open vSwitch — which is the open source standard virtual network switch and the building block of most SDN solutions — except that vRouter focuses on Layer 3 as the name suggests. OpenContrail also has an SDN controller that Juniper has chosen to leverage.

While VMware has had some success getting customers to integrate VMware NSX with its OpenStack deployments, Juniper is hoping to provide an alternative. OpenStack consulting firm Mirantis recently announced that it will integrate Juniper's platform for customers looking for an alternative to NSX.

Arista

Arista's Extensible Operating System (EOS) is the core of its SDN strategy. EOS is capable of provisioning Arista-compatible switches and virtual network resources via an application program interface (API). Arista built EOS with interoperability as a core tenant. EOS is built on the Linux platform and supports a wide range of SDN controllers, including VMware NSX, OpenStack, Nuage VSP, PLUMgrid, and OpenDaylight.

Brocade

Brocade's controller is an OpenDaylight-based solution; this is the first major vendor to release a product on OpenDaylight. According to a Brocade spokesperson, customers range from financial services firms to service providers; the general appeal has been the flexibility of the open platform.

Cisco

Cisco originally dismissed the concept of SDN. After feeling pressure from from competitors, Cisco labeled its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) solution SDN. ACI doesn't fit squarely in the definition of SDN because it's a hardware and software solution. I spoke with several Cisco engineers and partners who refused to categorize ACI as SDN; Cisco seems to have settled on ACI as SDN Plus, which is Cisco's nomenclature for having SDN functionality with the added benefit of policy-based controls.

Cisco intends to combine all of the advantages of hardware-based networking and add application-centric management. Cisco believes hardware adds the right level of flexibility and performance for typical data center customers.

According to Cisco, competing SDN solutions focus on virtualized environments, whereas ACI applies application-based policies to physical and virtual network devices. Network devices are dynamically configured based on application needs. For example, if an application requires a load balancer and a VPN connection, ACI will configure the underlying network components in support of the application.

What are your SDN solution selections and/or plans?

Has your organization spoken with traditional hardware vendors about SDN? If so, do you plan to perform any proof of concepts? I'd love to find out, so please post your comments in the discussion.

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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