The SURFnet network is never complete. As Network Services Product Manager, I frequently visit higher education and research institutions to discuss the challenges they face in terms of connectivity. Keeping a finger on the pulse enables us to prepare the future network for new developments in good time. Today, I am at Deltion College to discuss software-defined networking.
In the summer of 2014, Deltion College in Zwolle installed a software-defined networking (SDN) based network. SDN is an approach by which networks are managed at the software level. For this purpose, Deltion is using the OpenFlow protocol. Each device supported by OpenFlow can be connected to Deltion’s infrastructure and, via the software, directly managed from a remote location.
For what purpose does Deltion College use SDN?
Deltion College is one of first organisations in the world to run active configuration on SDN for load balancers. As a result, incoming traffic can be neatly distributed across the resources to better regulate the demand on the systems. Controlled by an OpenFlow protocol, this is managed centrally. KEMP, which supplies the load balancers, previously published a best practice describing how Deltion benefits from SDN.
Deltion uses a Microsoft Lync environment to place conference calls and provide remote on-demand access to lectures. By now, this Microsoft Lync environment is also running in the background of the SDN solution, which improves the user experience. This is significant, given that conference callers were sometimes periodically disconnected before. In addition, it is not possible to provide remote lecture access without proper Lync integration.
‘We will try to fully implement SDN in the near future,’ says Robert Vos, Computerisation and Automation manager at Deltion College. ‘Our ultimate goal is to easily manage the entire infrastructure, swiftly adapt to change and improve application and ICT resource use. Besides, more and more users will create their own applications. OpenFlow is, after all, and open standard. I think that’s also its strength.’
Why did Deltion College choose SDN?
‘SDN with OpenFlow is the future,’ says Vos. ‘Infrastructure we build now has to last for several years. You have a lot more flexibility if you manage your infrastructure dynamically. You can respond more quickly to changes from within and outside your organisation. The added value for our students is also considerable. They are already working with the networks of the future.’
Lower management burden and dynamic configuration
With SDN, the network intelligence is no longer in the equipment, but in the software instead. Once the settings are configured, the infrastructure can be managed centrally. The device recognises the software and is programmed to respond to it. According to Vos, ‘If you relocate, you can plug in your telephone and immediately enjoy the quality of service.’
Vos is very pleased with SDN’s dynamic configuration. His team decides the importance of each network component and the required bandwidth. ‘When you phone someone, the software registers that a call is being made. The software ensures the call has a quality of service of 80%, for instance. When the call ends, the rule is cleared. It isn’t static programming with a switch; it’s dynamic programming. Certain rules apply to incoming traffic, which are implemented and then cleared.’
Better cybercrime protection
Thanks to SDN, Deltion College can quickly respond to new developments, making it better able to meet the requirements of its users. Furthermore, a quick response is essential to combat suspicious network activity. According to Vos, ‘With the new European privacy and cybercrime legislation, we began to consider how we might operate more efficiently without losing sight of security. These considerations definitely played a part in choosing SDN.’