These features have so far appealed most to service providers who are looking to scale VLANs to create more segmented and secure multi-tenant environments, or by large enterprises that need to span different infrastructures but want to use the same networking topology.
For users, this ability to control multiple disparate sites under the same network control opens up one of the chief promises of cloud computing: elastic scaling of applications between an on-premise private cloud and a service's provider's public cloud, creating a hybrid cloud. An abstracted network makes that significantly easier, says Gavin Pratt of HP Cloud Services. This will become a necessity for enterprises truly embracing cloud computing, he says.
In the long term, even as cloud computing continues to popularize, many enterprises will not be comfortable having all of their workloads in the public cloud -- they will still have on-premise applications. SDN allows users to be able to manage both of those networks through a common framework. "The implication is you will need a public cloud interconnected with the private cloud, to provide a flex-out capability," Pratt says. "To be able to do that within the same network is a huge opportunity."
SDN can be an opportunity to actually improve network security, too. "The SDN controller has a global view of the network," Cohen notes. That ubiquitous view, combined with the network intelligence being done at the edge, means there are new opportunities for the controller to monitor and enforce security policies across the entire system.
Despite this potential, the panelists on the SDN discussions agreed market adoption has been slow so far. It could take up to three to five years for SDN to be the common networking framework, Cohen says.
As it gets implemented, though, the technology will continue to improve. One area he expects to see future development in is around high-level networking functionality being controlled by SDN controllers. Layer 4-7 functions, for example, have not been as integrated as the virtual networking L2 and L3 functions, at least in OpenStack, he says.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.