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Software-Defined Networking

Automate and program your network faster

Provision, manage, and program networks more rapidly with software-defined networking. In this centralized approach to network management, the underlying network infrastructure is abstracted from applications. SDN provides choice in automation and programmability across data centers, campuses, and wide-area networks. Use Cisco software-defined solutions to build intent-based networks.

What SDN can do for you

Simplify operations

Reduce complexity by decoupling the control and data planes, while making automation highly secure and scalable.

Build programmable networks

Eliminate manual configuration. Provision and manage data centers, campuses, and wide-area networks.

Achieve faster time to market

Deploy applications and services faster by leveraging open APIs. Easily integrate third-party products.

Lay the foundation for intent

Centralize configuration, management, control, monitoring, service delivery, and cloud automation.

Find the best SDN solution for you

For data center managers​​

Increase business agility: automate provisioning and operations, enhance security, and enable multicloud.

For network managers

Design, provision, and manage highly secure networks that provide access to any application.

SDN customer success stories

New campus: single fabric

The University of Northampton designs, personalizes, provisions, and manages its network as a single fabric across an entire campus to meet changing technology needs.

A connected digital county

Durham County has automated data center services and policies, so engineers can spend less time managing the data center network and more time focusing on strategic initiatives.

Simplicity, scalability, security

With Cisco ACI, Ameritas has increased business agility through operational efficiency, unmatched security, and a seamless path to multicloud.

SD-WAN: tips for customers

Cope with the explosion in traffic demand. Run large branch infrastructure. Securely manage critical sites.

Customer Services for SDN

Reduce the complexity of transformation and speed adoption of new operations models to accelerate ROI.

What is software-defined networking?

How does a software-defined network work?

Software-defined networking (SDN) is designed to make a network flexible and agile. SDN lets you design, build, and manage networks, separating the control and forwarding planes. As a result, the control plane is directly programmable, and it abstracts the underlying infrastructure for applications and network services.

Network intelligence is logically centralized through programmable SDN controllers. Implemented in software, these controllers maintain a coherent view of the network domain. To applications and policy engines, SDN looks like a single logical switch.


What does SDN consist of?

Software-defined networking (SDN) offers a centralized, programmable network that consists of an SDN controller, southbound APIs, and northbound APIs.

  • SDN controllers are the brains of the network, offering a centralized view of the overall network.
  • Southbound APIs relay information to the switches and routers in network.
  • Northbound APIs communicate with the applications and deploy services.

What are the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN)?

  • Fast and automated application deployment.
  • On-demand app delivery and mobility at scale.
  • Greater resource flexibility and utilization.
  • Reduction of IT costs by enhancing the benefits of data center virtualization.

What is the relationship between SDN and intent-based networking?

Software-defined networks have automated the process of network management.

Intent-based networking adds context, learning, and assurance capabilities by tightly coupling policy with intent. SDN can be a building block of intent-based networking.


What is the relationship between SDN and NFV?

Network function virtualization (NFV) uses hypervisor and cloud-computing technology for network automation and orchestration. NFV works best in the context of network services (OSI Level 4 and up) that require heavy compute power, with low-to-medium bandwidth throughput.

SDN converges the management of network and application services into centralized, extensible orchestration platforms. SDN is optimal for high-throughput network forwarding (OSI Levels 0-3) where bandwidth-intensive workloads need significant traffic management.