Software Defined Networking


Applies To: Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2

You can use this topic to learn about the software defined networking technologies that are provided in Windows Server, System Center, and Microsoft Azure.

This topic contains the following sections.

Software Defined Networking Overview

Software Defined Networking (SDN) provides a method to centrally configure and manage physical and virtual network devices such as routers, switches, and gateways in your datacenter. Virtual network elements such as Hyper-V Virtual Switch, Hyper-V Network Virtualization, and Windows Server Gateway are designed to be integral elements of your software defined networking infrastructure. While you can still use your existing physical switches, routers, and other hardware devices, you can achieve deeper integration between the virtual network and the physical network if these devices are designed for compatibility with software defined networking.

Software defined networking is possible because the network planes - the management, control, and data planes - are no longer bound to the network devices themselves, but are abstracted for use by other entities, such as datacenter management software like System Center.

Software defined networking allows you to dynamically manage your datacenter network to provide an automated, centralized way to meet the requirements of your applications and workloads. Software defined networking provides the following capabilities.

  • The ability to abstract your applications and workloads from the underlying physical network, which is accomplished by virtualizing the network. Just as with server virtualization using Hyper-V, the abstractions are consistent and work with your applications and workloads in a non-disruptive manner. For example, software defined networking provides virtual abstractions for your physical network elements, such as IP addresses, switches, and load balancers.

  • The ability to centrally define and control policies that govern both physical and virtual networks, including traffic flow between these two network types.

  • The ability to implement network policies in a consistent manner at scale, even as you deploy new workloads or move workloads across virtual or physical networks.

Windows Server Technologies for Software Defined Networking

Windows Server includes the following software defined networking technologies.

Network Controller

New in Windows Server® 2016 Technical Preview, Network Controller provides a centralized, programmable point of automation to manage, configure, monitor, and troubleshoot both virtual and physical network infrastructure in your datacenter. Using Network Controller, you can automate the configuration of network infrastructure instead of performing manual configuration of network devices and services.

Network Controller is a highly available and scalable server role, and provides one application programming interface (API) – the Southbound API - that allows Network Controller to communicate with the network, and a second API – the Northbound API - that allows you to communicate with Network Controller.

Using Windows PowerShell, the Representational State Transfer (REST) API, or a management application, you can use Network Controller to manage the following physical and virtual network infrastructure:

  • Hyper-V VMs and virtual switches

  • Physical network switches

  • Physical network routers

  • Firewall software

  • VPN Gateways, including Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) Multitenant Gateways

  • Load Balancers

For more information, see Network Controller.

Hyper-V Network Virtualization

Windows Server 2012 delivered Hyper-V Network Virtualization that helps you abstract your apps and workloads from the physical network using virtual networks. Virtual networks provide the necessary multitenant isolation while running on a shared physical network fabric, thereby driving up resource utilization. To ensure that you can carry forward your existing investments, virtual networks can be set up on existing networking gear and are compatible with VLANs.

For more information, see Hyper-V Network Virtualization Overview.

Hyper-V Virtual Switch

The Hyper-V Virtual Switch is a software-based layer-2 Ethernet network switch that is available in Hyper-V Manager when you install the Hyper-V server role. The switch includes programmatically managed and extensible capabilities to connect virtual machines to both virtual networks and the physical network. In addition, Hyper-V Virtual Switch provides policy enforcement for security, isolation, and service levels.

The Hyper-V Virtual Switch also enables partners to build security and manageability extensions. For example, Cisco announced general availability of their Nexus 1000V extension to the Hyper-V Virtual Switch, including integration with System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager. NEC announced System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager based support for their OpenFlow-based Hyper-V Virtual Switch extension. Additionally, 5NINE and inMon have in-market offerings based on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V switch extensions.

For more information, see Hyper-V Virtual Switch Overview.

RRAS Multitenant Gateway

To seamlessly help you move your workloads within and across datacenters and clouds, we’re delivering a software edge gateway in Windows Server 2012 R2 that can be managed by System Center 2012 R2. If you’re in enterprise IT, this gateway will help you easily extend your datacenter boundaries to a service provider or Windows Azure, so that you can deliver hybrid infrastructure on-demand. If you’re a hosting service provider, this means much greater operational efficiency, since this virtual gateway is multitenant-aware and can support multiple customers on a single gateway instance while meeting their throughput and availability needs.

For more information, see Windows Server 2012 R2 RRAS Multitenant Gateway Deployment Guide.

NIC Teaming

NIC Teaming, also known as load balancing and failover (LBFO), allows multiple network adapters on a computer to be placed into a team for the following purposes:

  1. Bandwidth aggregation

  2. Traffic failover to prevent connectivity loss in the event of a network component failure

For more information, see NIC Teaming Overview.

System Center Technologies for Software Defined Networking

System Center includes the following technologies for use with software defined networking.

System Center Operations Manager

System Center 2012 Operations Manager provides infrastructure monitoring that is flexible and cost-effective, helps ensure the predictable performance and availability of vital applications, and offers comprehensive monitoring for your datacenter and cloud, both private and public.

For more information, see Operations Manager

System Center Virtual Machine Manager

With System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager, you can provision and manage virtual networks at-scale. You can define and control virtual network policies centrally and link them to your apps or workloads. When your workload is deployed or moved, the network configuration adjusts itself automatically. This is important because it removes the need for manual reconfiguration of network hardware, thereby reducing operational complexity while saving your valuable resources for higher-impact work. Virtual Machine Manager also helps you to control traffic flow between virtual networks, including the ability to define guaranteed bandwidth for your critical apps and workloads.

For more information, see Virtual Machine Manager

Windows Server Gateway

To deploy Windows Server Gateway, you must use System Center 2012 R2 and Virtual Machine Manager. The Windows Server Gateway router is designed for use with multitenant deployments. With the System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager Windows Server Gateway router, only a very limited set of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) configuration options are available in the Virtual Machine Manager software interface, including Local BGP IP Address and Autonomous System Numbers (ASN), List of BGP Peer IP Addresses, and ASN, values. You can, however, use Remote Access Windows PowerShell BGP commands to configure all other features of Windows Server Gateway.

For more information, see Windows Server Gateway.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform: a growing collection of integrated services—compute, storage, data, networking, and app—that help you move faster, do more, and save money.

Microsoft’s approach to software defined networking includes designing, building, and operating global-scale datacenter networks for services like Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure global datacenters perform tens of thousands of network changes every day, which is possible only because of software defined networking.

Microsoft Azure runs on the same Windows Server and Hyper-V platform that are included in Windows Server. Windows Server and System Center include improvements and best practices from Microsoft’s experience in operating global scale datacenter networks like Microsoft Azure to you so that you can deploy the same technologies for flexibility, automation, and control when using software designed networking technologies.

For more information, see What is Microsoft Azure?