In today’s era, enterprises have started focusing on the network much more than before due to the evolvement of cloud computing in business operations. To migrate to cloud, a massive amount of changes in the design of the network, as well as an emphasis on security aspects related to network and data, is required.
As the utilisation of these new technologies is increasing, new challenges will arise that will demand a highly automated and secure network. Software defined networking (SDN) is by far one of the greatest inventions which has transformed network architecture to solve many challenges associated with digital transformation. A software-defined network can be easier to upgrade and it is also possible to apply patches to a network as any security risk arises.
In SDN architecture, the control plane is decoupled from the forwarding plane of network devices. All control functions can be managed centrally, which makes a network highly programmable for network administrators. This advantage provided with SDN allows agility in network traffic flow to meet the dynamic needs in networks, along with maintaining security and preventing cyber attacks.
Prior to SDN, all network devices had their own intelligence in the form of a control plane, which took calls on where and how to forward traffic. Provided multiple such intelligence devices were in a network, analysis of traffic was impossible. With SDN, the network becomes centrally managed, giving a broader view on the network through the SDN controller. Using an SDN-based firewall which can be implemented with the SDN controller, all data packets can be analysed. Any kind of malicious data or instructions injected by attackers can then be filtered out at a central level and all necessary actions can be invoked to prevent network crash.
SDN-based firewalls do not just act as a packet filter, but can also be useful as a policy checker. Network policies can be centrally defined and enforced at a controller for the whole network.
As network control is centrally managed, a configuration of a network becomes easy for administrators. With a software-defined nature, it becomes possible to automate network configurations and settings which further allow dynamic changes to security settings of the network as the traffic demands rise. Such dynamic programming and restructuring ability provided with SDN helps prevent DDoS-type attacks. SDN provides an ability to the network administrator to get real-time alerts for such attacks and block malicious traffic near to the source of an attack.
Intelligence in network security
As SDN is evolving to become a mainstream technology in today’s networks, many networking companies have begun to evaluate possibilities of integrating SDN with network analytics and machine learning to have a much more highly automated and intelligent network.
The next step to provide intelligence to the network, based on advantages provided with SDN, is intent-based networking (IBN), which has emerged to make it possible to manage millions of network devices. IBN helps scaling and deployment of network resources in an agile manner. IBN technology is already integrated by Cisco to offer IBN-based solutions to customers.
IBN rectifies the need for manual configuration of a network with a set of instructions. The admin has to give only intent or request in a natural language to the network in one line – a task to be done in the network. This request is then converted into a set of commands to be followed by the network. The SDN controller comes into the picture to intercept the intent given from the application layer and carry out configurations within the network. Moving further with the power of IBN, we will have automated detection of network glitches or malicious interferences, and self-healing capabilities.
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