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Can SDN technology be used for network access protection?

I read your recent tip on software-defined networking (SDN). We are considering SDN technology for our network. We have firewalls and access control lists in place, but we like the idea of using SDN to enforce network access control for all of our endpoints. Is SDN worthwhile for these purposes alone?

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SDN, in my opinion, is the future of networking. The networking world has long waited for a technology like SDN to come around. It's really up to the people embracing the technology and working together to make it better, very much like Linux when it first came out.

Software-defined networking isn't something that can just be thrown together over a weekend and run by itself. Before deciding to run SDN, first determine if there is a legitimate business case for the use of this technology. Running SDN takes networking and puts it on its head -- this is a completely different way to think about managing systems.

Be aware that there might be pushback from people who are opposed to change. This is fine, but as you said, you want to have a better view into your nodes. This is an honorable objective. You'll be able to manage such things as routes and Quality of Service more efficiently, but you'll also encounter some security concerns with SDN.

The following are some issues that you may run into:

  • Securing the controller and making sure that no unauthorized changes occur
  • Properly configuring for business continuity
  • Ensuring you have secure connections from the controller to each one of the endpoints

While it's important to be aware of the potential security implications of using SDN technology for the purposes you mention, it's also a good thing to want to manage your endpoints more efficiently and enforce network access protection.

This was first published in March 2013

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