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F5 Offers Comment, Clarification on Software-Defined Discussion

By Paula Bernier January 16, 2014

Software-defined networking is creating a lot of excitement. But with excitement often comes confusion. And one of the areas of confusion related to this topic has to do with the difference between being software-defined and software-deployed.

At least that’s the position of Lori MacVittie of F5. MacVittie, a former columnist for TMC’s INTERNET TELEPHONY, posted in a Sys-Con Media piece this week explaining that software-defined has to do with using software to configure and manage networks, while software-deployed involves service functionality running as software, either in a pure software environment or as a virtualized appliance. These two things, she adds, are very different animals and one does not depend upon the other. She also talks about how SDN is similar to pre-existing technologies like SOA.

MacVittie wrote in her Virtualization Reality column in the September 2013 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY that many new networking technologies are based on Layer 7 content inspection and routing. 

“The IDS/IPS is a content router that looks for specific security signatures and acts upon what it sees (usually logging and dropping the malicious information),” she noted. “A UTM/NGFW looks at content from a client perspective and permits/blocks traffic associated with that client, usually from a security and policy perspective. A WAN acceleration device caches duplicate content and optimizes content and traffic for high latency and low speed circuits. The Server Load Balancer is your original traditional Layer 7 content router.”

Service providers like the telcos, she continued, want to leverage content in their networks to be able to offer more value-added services.

“There is a value in managing the content within the network from a value added service (VAS) perspective and enabling the virtualization of the evolved packet core (EPC) through technologies and strategies such as software defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV),” she wrote. “All of these solutions are leveraging the same base technology to deliver different functions. Ultimately, all of these niche solutions are going to disappear and the base technology will encompass any and all of these functions in a solution consisting of a platform sharing a common architecture, design, management and functionality.”

Meanwhile, Frank Yue, technical marketing manager with F5 and the current author of Virtualization Reality, in his column for December’s issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY, talked about network functions virtualization, another hot topic that is often discussed in the same breath as SDN.

“NFV depends on four key components to be successful in design and implementation,” writes Yue. “That includes virtualization, abstraction, programmability and orchestration.”

Excitement around software-defined network has in the past few months driven some of the biggest tech names in the industry to buy SDN startups, and has also led private equity and venture capital investors to funnel dollars to new players in this nascent arena. To learn more about SDN, join us at SDN Precon Jan. 28 in Miami. For more information, or to register, click here:

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

Executive Editor, TMC

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