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The Evolution from Monitoring to Software-Defined Networking

Posted by Chris Bihary | 9/26/17 8:00 AM

One of our technology partners, Big Switch Networks, recently achieved a significant milestone—placement in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking.

This achievement is telling of the ever-increasing practicality of software-defined networking. As Big Switch Networks’ SDN solution gains ground in the market, we should look at how data center networking needs are changing.

What was once a demand for greater visibility in the data center is quickly becoming a need for more agile, software-defined data center networks.

Fabrics Are Making SDN More Accessible

One of the key drivers of SDN hype has always been the use of open source software and commercial, off the shelf hardware. The only problem is that overhauling legacy-laden data centers with COTS hardware is easier said than done. No one denies the long-term benefits, but implementation can prove complicated and costly.

To combat the complexity of practical SDN, vendors like Big Switch Networks have started the network fabric trend. With these fabric solutions, companies can take advantage of SDN’s features, like programmability and centralized control.

Learn more about SDN and NFV!

The apparent compromise with fabric solutions is that they are often based on proprietary architecture. If vendor lock-out was your main objective with SDN, fabric solutions might not be perfect. But if you’re willing to accept some proprietary components, fabrics can help you design a much more agile, flexible data center network.

While the idea of fabric solutions for SDN might sound new, the seeds of this approach were actually planted years ago. If you look at the evolution of Big Switch Networks solutions, you can start to see how traffic monitoring has built up to practical SDN.

Network Monitoring Has Led to Software-Defined Networking

There was a time when we consistently heard people say that SDN would replace network monitoring tools. While we don’t hear these concerns as often these days, it’s still interesting to see how the same needs that led to demand for better monitoring are now leading to SDN demand. This connection is especially clear in the context of Big Switch Networks and the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

“Big Switch used its network packet broker (NPB) solution called Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF) as a Trojan horse in accounts that were not ready for a white/brite box as their primary data center network, but were open to trying the technology for a specific application.”—from the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking.

The Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF) gave companies a taste of pervasive visibility on a small scale by offering an agile and intelligent architecture for individual applications. This is effective for businesses trying to achieve greater availability and performance from applications, but larger scale implementations rely more heavily on the Big Cloud Fabric (BCF), which is more aligned with SDN demands.

While BMF focuses on granular visibility and security, BCF is geared toward data center switching. They aren’t replacements for one another, but rather complements for companies trying to meet modern business demands.

But in either case, the foundation for success is the ability to see every bit, byte, and packet® on the network. This is why we partner with Big Switch Networks—to ensure BMF and BCF deployments have the traffic necessary to bring companies closer to practical SDN deployments.



If you want to learn more about the need for visibility in software-defined networks (whether it’s implemented traditionally or through a fabric), download our free white paper, Architecting Data Centers for SDN and NFV.


Topics: Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Visibility/Monitoring, Technology Partners, Data Center

Written by Chris Bihary

Chris Bihary has been in the network performance industry for over 20 years. Bihary has established collaborative partnerships with technology companies to complement product performance through the integration of network test access points. Previously, Bihary was Managing Partner at Network Critical.