The notion of virtualization has been with us for a long time now. Virtual machines have liberated computing environments from their underlying hardware - with obvious benefits realized industry-wide.
Now that same virtualization model and discipline is finally coming to our network infrastructure
with the advent of SDN
(software defined networking) and OpenFlow
If you're going to be working as a network professional in the near future, an understanding of network virtualization will be as much an essential skill for an IT professional as an understanding of machine
virtualization is today. So now is the time to start getting up to speed.
The following Stamford seminar lecture by Scott Shenker gives an excellent overview of what SDN is, where it came from, and where it's going. Scott discusses the key players, the ideas behind SDN, its architecture, mistakes made along the way, lessons learned, and the design changes and conclusions that have since been drawn. At a little over an hour, this is one of the single best high-level introductions to this initiative, presented by somebody who is directly involved in bringing it to market. Although moderately technical in a few places, it's still very understandable for anyone who has even a tiny amount of home networking experience. Well worth a view - and highly recommended:
If a Stamford lecture is a little too formal for your taste (or you only have 25 or so minutes to spare) Eli the Computer Guy
has a nice funky down-home introduction you may prefer to watch instead:
Either presentation is good. Watching both, however, will definitely give you everything you’ll need to be aware of when it comes to SDN.
Once you've got some SDN/OpenFlow basics under your belt you'll probably be anxious to put some of it to use - or at least play with it in a lab setting. But switches and networking hardware are awfully expensive, right? Well...luckily, there is a free virtual lab environment available for download called Mininet
From the website:
Mininet creates a realistic virtual network, running real kernel, switch and application code, on a single machine (VM, cloud or native), in seconds, with a single command...
Because you can easily interact with your network using the Mininet CLI (and API), customize it, share it with others, or deploy it on real hardware, Mininet is useful for development, teaching, and research.
Mininet is also a great way to develop, share, and experiment with OpenFlow and Software-Defined Networking systems.
Full information, documentation, and instructional videos are available at the Mininet website. Mininet can be run on any operating system in Virtualbox or under Linux.
Want to see it in action? Watch a quick introductory video to Mininet below:
People with previous experience with the "terminal mode" found on virtually every professional router (Cisco, HP, etc.) should feel right at home in fairly short order.
SDN! Cool tool. VERY