What Software Defined Networking Can Do for IoT
As more enterprises evolve their IoT proof-of-concept projects into live architectures, IoT won’t be the only technology migration many of them are tackling, as enterprise networks today are also in the midst of a broader, more multifaceted transformation.
IoT is coming into play just as enterprises are migrating beyond the hub-and-spoke architectures that have defined their networks for decades. In the traditional hub-and-spoke model, all services are processed in a centralized location, and all connectivity goes through that hub. All enterprise traffic from that hub might get backhauled through one or more MPLS links. But, that model reflected a previous hardware-centric enterprise IT era, and did not allow flexibility to prioritize particular applications or traffic, to access applications from different locations and device types, or to host and process applications in one or more external clouds.
Multiple converging trends in recent years have begun to require a new network approach: the growth and variety of different devices — not just enterprise desktops, but smartphones, IoT sensors and other devices — connected to the network; the proliferation of more distributed networks and remote telecommuting; the ever-present need to reduce enterprise connectivity and hardware costs; the rise of new network connectivity technology options, like broadband Internet access and 4G LTE; and an explosion in applications hosted in a variety of places, not just in an enterprise workstation or a corporate data center, but in a variety of potential cloud locations.
As Anand Oswal, senior vice president of engineering for Cisco Systems’ enterprise networking group puts its, “In the 1980s, everyone had a desktop and networks were not so complex. In the 90s, we had laptops coming in and then smartphones in the 2000s. The network started getting complicated. You wanted users to be able to access the resources on the enterprise network, but the users wanted to be at home, so we had VPNs and the IT manager’s job was to ensure the right person could access the right corporate resources, but not things they shouldn’t access”
Enterprise networks are growing more complex. “You have a slew of IoT devices coming in and a lot of those don’t have the same network usage rights as other devices,” Oswal said. The explosion of applications adds another dimension of complexity. Applications “ are not just in the center of the enterprise network campus environment, but also in the cloud, or in multiple clouds,” he added. Added to that is the complexity of BYOD in corporate environments. “At the same time, the user expectations are that they should have the same performance whether they are in the corporate enterprise, in a remote branch office, at home or in the café,” Oswal added. “Branch offices are directly accessing the Internet to get the right application experience, so the security need is now distributed in nature. You do not have that hub and spoke environment anymore.”
A new concept, software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), has emerged in recent years with the aim to simplify all of this complexity and help evolve enterprise networks into more flexible, programmable architectures that can meet the changing expectations of users.