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Software-Defined Networking and Intent-Based Networking

Introduction

The concept of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is closely linked with the idea of virtualization in networking. SDN is a relatively new framework that was developed in the early 2010s. The main purpose of SDN is to transfer the digital network workloads from hardware to software (Robertazzi, 2017). The transition from physical devices to a software particularly involves routers, switches, and elements of low-level functionality. It may also be identified as a separation of the control plane and the data plane (Monnet, 2016). Such an approach offers more opportunities to manage the system and reduces the required skills and efforts. SDN is broadly utilized among modern companies due to several essential advantages it provides. However, there are also some potential pitfalls and challenges related to the implementation and use of SDN.

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As already mentioned, one of the most significant advantages of SDN is visibility. As the data plane is separated from the control plane, more information regarding the system can be accessed, allowing software engineers to conduct a comprehensive analysis. As a consequence, rational decision-making is less complicated, and the necessary changes can be applied at high rates. In addition, the ability to introduce a timely and adequate response to any problems occurring within the system increases the efficiency of the network. Therefore, SDN is highly beneficial in terms of improving network flexibility. Another considerable advantage of SDN is related to security opportunities. First, higher visibility maintains control over the network, making it easier to identify any cybersecurity threats and introduce a counter-measure. Second, SDN can be used to implement micro-segmentation, which also improves the security of the network. Microsegmentation may separate secure networks from public networks and prevent cybersecurity breaches by limiting the ability to access secure data from the public segment. Finally, SDN systems rely less on the hardware and hence may represent a more cost-efficient decision for many organizations.

Nevertheless, there are several disadvantages related to the use of SDN that underline the need for further development. First, SDN represents a relatively new technology and hence is related to uncertainty. Although the technology is broadly implemented all over the globe and improves constantly, existing knowledge may not be sufficient to assess SDN-related risks comprehensively. Second, cybersecurity may be compromised due to high levels of centralization involved in the SDN systems. The controller is used to supervise and manage the system instead of routers and switches. Therefore, it may be vitally important to ensure the security of the controller and prevent any external interference. Even though the technology is new, it develops at rapid rates and provides numerous opportunities for businesses. Despite the number of weaknesses, SDN has shown itself as a promising technology, and hence further development should be conducted.

Intent-Based Networking (IBN)

Intent-Based Networking (IBN) is a rapidly developing technology that may significantly improve the process of network management. IBN utilizes the latest digital advancements such as machine learning to improve the management and maintenance of the network. Before IBN occurred, network administrators controlled the networks manually, facing several challenges. Manual control of various aspects, including equipment management, system maintenance, and user access provision, represents a disadvantage in terms of network scalability. Such an approach requires a significant amount of time and involves monotonous work leading to a higher probability of human error and increasing the costs. IBN offers an opportunity to mitigate the issues related to the manual management of networks. It utilizes such digital technology as machine learning and network automation to consume the intent of a user and conduct a sequence of actions and algorithms needed to achieve the intended outcome. Although IBN is a promising technology with several essential advantages, some potential risks require consideration.

One of the most noticeable advantages of IBN is related to application scalability. Software engineers are not forced to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the interactions between the application and the network infrastructure. Instead, developers may entirely focus on the development of the application regardless of their knowledge about the network. It also allows scalability in terms of network management as fewer operations are implemented manually, and hence it may be easier to work with large networks. Another benefit of IBN is related to improved portability and compatibility. The technology simplifies the process of porting an application between SDN systems. As IBN may be viewed as an improved version of SDN, it also has similar advantages, including higher flexibility and low response time. Furthermore, improved automation mitigates the probability of human error and related risks. It also results in faster identification of cybersecurity threats and allows the implementation of a timely response.

IBN also faces several challenges related to its implementation. First, similar to SDN, it is a new technology that emerged recently. Even though it is developing at high rates, current knowledge may be insufficient to evaluate and predict risks consistently. Secondly, it may be costly to design a practical intent-based framework to manage complex networks. There are also several misnomers regarding IBN systems, including the assumption that the infrastructure may misinterpret the intent leading to an error (Onisick, 2020). However, in reality, the network does not interpret the intended outcome but provides a solution following initial algorithms and business logic (Onisick, 2020). In addition, despite the high short-term development-related expenses, IBN frameworks may allow the organization to save money on labor in the long-term perspective.

The Interrelation between Virtualizing the Desktop and Back-End Infrastructure

Back-end infrastructure plays a central role in the process of desktop virtualization. Virtualizing the desktop becomes a more and more common practice that is broadly utilized by businesses on international levels. It provides higher device flexibility, better security improves user experience, and introduces scalability opportunities. However, it may not be possible to achieve desktop virtualization without proper back-end infrastructure. Some sources state that the complexity of back-end frameworks served as a barrier in the implementation of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) (Conboy, 2021). Moreover, the sustainability of the VDI depends on the stability of back-end components. As the VDI technologies depend significantly on the back-end infrastructure, their development led to the improvement of back-end frameworks. Therefore, these two elements play a considerable role in modern networking and are closely related to each other. To some extent, the back-end infrastructure may be viewed as a basis that is needed for the successful establishment of VDI.

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Relation between SDN and IBN

The principles of SDN and IBN are closely interrelated, and, in most cases, they may complement each other. IBN is a more modern technology that utilizes the idea of virtualization and SDN in particular. To some extent, IBN was developed as an advanced version of SDN frameworks, which is based on the most relevant digital technologies (Beshley, Pryslupskyi, Panchenko, & Beshley, 2019). Both network approaches are derived from the idea of network virtualization. As already mentioned, SDN is designed to provide network administrators with easy access to any element of the network. It also introduces comprehensive knowledge regarding the network, which can be highly beneficial in terms of analysis and maintenance. However, SDN frameworks involve manual control and adjustment of the system. IBN takes a step further and uses machine learning and automation to reduce the efforts required to manage the network. It may not be possible to implement an Intent-Based Approach without Software-Defined Networking. It is essential to virtualize the network to provide the automatic systems with the resources needed to control the network following the user intent.

Conclusion

SDN and IBN provide numerous opportunities for businesses in different dimensions. As most modern organizations rely significantly on digital technologies, these two network approaches may contribute to higher communication efficiency, lesser maintenance costs, improved cybersecurity, and higher network flexibility (Bakhshi, 2017). It may be essential for businesses of diverse sizes and fields to consider both SDN and IBN. Caduceus’s case may serve as a prime example of how an organization may benefit from these frameworks.

Caduceus has a relatively big network with approximately 2000 desktop computers. Moreover, the network is exponentially increased by the policy that allows users to use their devices to access the network. Even though these phones and IPads are issued by the company, the ability to access the network from a mobile device may represent a threat to the cybersecurity of the system. The use of SDN may not only be necessary to maintain such network accessibility but also beneficial in terms of security. As already mentioned, the SDN approach allows micro-segmentation of the network. Microsegmentation can be utilized to limit the access for users that use mobile devices to secure valuable data from potential breaches or human error.

Furthermore, Cadeuceus’ large network size may involve considerable administration-related expenses. A significant number of highly paid IT professionals may be required to maintain such a network manually. Moreover, as it provides access to a variety of devices, compatibility issues may occur, and security problems may require thorough consideration. Hence, IBN may represent an opportunity to reduce related costs as it reduces the needed person-hours. Moreover, it may provide better cybersecurity, as it limits the number of people who have access to network management and reduces the risk of human error. The development of IBN frameworks may also allow Caduceus to adjust new applications to the existing network quickly. The process of updating the company’s desktop computers may also be simplified by the presence of a comprehensive IBN system.

Conclusively, both IBN and SDN play a considerable role in the development of modern network systems. Their emergence and implementation allowed businesses to reduce their expenses related to labor costs and network maintenance. In addition, IBN and SDN contributed to the development of higher cyber security as well as data accessibility. Nonetheless, these technologies are new and may require large investments of time and money aimed at mitigating potential risks. Further development may not only strengthen the benefits of IBN and SDN but also provide a valuable knowledge base needed for newer ideas and concepts.

References

Bakhshi, T. (2017). State of the art and recent research advances in software defined networking. Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing, 2017, 1-35. doi:10.1155/2017/7191647

Beshley, M., Pryslupskyi, A., Panchenko, O., & Beshley, H. (2019). SDN/Cloud Solutions for intent-based networking. 2019 3rd International Conference on Advanced Information and Communications Technologies (AICT). doi:10.1109/aiact.2019.8847731

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Conboy, A. (2021). Edge computing solutions and virtual desktop.

Monnet, Q. (2016). An introduction to SDN. 

Onisick, J. (2020). Intent driven architectures: What is intent? 

Robertazzi, T. G. (2017). Software-defined networking. Introduction to Computer Networking, 81-87. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-53103-8_7

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