Whitepaper - Decoding SDN
Copyright © 2013, Juniper Networks, Inc.
THE FOUR PLANES OF NETWORKING
Inside every networking and security device–every switch, rout-er, and rewall—you can separate the soware into our layersor planes. As we move to SDN, these planes need to be clearlyunderstood and cleanly separated. This is absolutely essentialin order to build the next generation, highly scalable network.
The bottom plane, Forwarding, does the heavyliing o sending the network packets on their way. It is opti-mized to move data as ast as it can. The Forwarding planecan be implemented in soware but it is typically built usingapplication-specic integrated circuits (ASIC’s) that are de-signed or that purpose. Third party vendors supply ASIC’sor some parts o the switching, routing, and rewall markets.For high perormance and high scale systems, the ForwardingASIC’s tend to be specialized and each vendor provides theirown, dierentiated implementation. Some have speculatedthat SDN will commoditize switching, routing, and rewallhardware. However, the seemingly insatiable demand or net-work capacity generated by thousands o new consumer andbusiness applications creates signicant opportunity or di-erentiation in Forwarding hardware and networking systems.In act by unlocking innovation, SDN will allow urther dieren-tiation rom the vendors who build these systems.
I the Forwarding plane is the brawn o the network,Control is the brains. The Control plane understands the net-work topology and makes the decisions on where the ow onetwork trac should go. The Control plane is the trac copthat understands and decodes the alphabet soup o network-ing protocols and ensures that the trac ows smoothly. Veryimportantly, the Control plane learns everything it needs toknow about the network by talking to its peer in other devices.This is the magic that makes the Internet resilient to ailures,keeping trac owing even when a major storm like Sandybrings down thousands o networking devices.
Sometimes network trac requires more processingand or this, the Services plane does the job. Not all networkingdevices have a Services plane—you won’t nd this plane in asimple switch. But or many routers and all rewalls, the Ser-vices plane does the deep thinking, perorming the complexoperations on networking data that cannot be accomplishedby the Forwarding hardware. Services are the place where re-walls stop the bad guys and parental controls are enorced.They enable your Smartphone to browse the web or stream avideo, all the while ensuring you’re properly billed or the privi-lege. The Services plane is ripe or innovation.
Like all computers, network devices need tobe congured, or managed. The Management plane providesthe basic instructions o how the network device should in-teract with the rest o the network. Where the Control planecan learn everything it needs rom the network itsel, the Man-agement plane must be told what to do. Today’s networkingdevices are oen congured individually. Frequently, they aremanually congured using an esoteric command line interace(CLI), understood by a small number o network specialists.Because the conguration is manual, mistakes are requentand these mistakes sometimes have serious consequences—cutting o trac to an entire data center or stopping trac ona cross-country networking highway. Service providers worryabout backhoes cutting ber optic cables but more requently,their engineers cut the cable in a virtual way by making a sim-ple mistake in the complex CLI used to congure their networkrouters or security rewalls.While the Forwarding plane uses special purpose hardwareto get its job done, the Control, Services, and Managementplanes run on one or more general purpose computers. Thesevary in sophistication and type, rom very inexpensive proces-sors within consumer devices to what is eectively a high-endserver in larger, carrier-class systems. But in all cases today,these general purpose computers use special purpose so-ware that is xed in unction and dedicated to the task at hand.That inexibility is the root o the issue that has sparked theinterest in SDN.I you crawled through the soware inside a router or rewalltoday, you’d nd all our o the networking planes. But withtoday’s soware, that networking code is built monolithicallywithout cleanly dened interaces between the planes. Whatyou have today are individual networking devices, with mono-lithic soware, that must be manually congured. This makeseverything harder than it needs to be.
NETWORK PLANESTODAY’S NETWORK DEVICES
M a n a g e m e n t
C o n t r o l
F o r w a r d i n g
S e r v i c e s