E-Handbook: Software-based networking: The engine for a dynamic network Article 1 of 4

Software-based networking claims center stage

The concept of software-based -- as opposed to software-defined -- networking is gaining traction as enterprises explore new ways to oversee their networks.

Although similar in nature, software-based networking goes beyond software-defined networking's separation of the control plane from the data plane. Instead, the increased use of software-based networking covers all the ways enterprises can use programming to make their networks more efficient and more productive.

To that end, software in networking is being tapped in myriad ways. It's being used to underpin new efforts to make networks interoperable through the use of network management software that supports multiple components from multiple vendors. It's being used to streamline the provisioning of services and enable new capabilities like routing and security free from proprietary hardware. And perhaps most intriguingly, software-based networking is also being used to automate manual processes that are dependent upon the command-line interface and to seed the advent of machine learning and AI -- developments that will pave the way for intent-based networking.

Finally, a network based on software makes analytics easier to gather, which provides users with actionable intelligence and more precise control over their networks.

Until recently, one barrier to the spread of software-based networking was the closed, proprietary nature of enterprise network products. But this resistance is fading, and the enterprise network is the beneficiary, with organizations able to mix and match different vendors' hardware through APIs and other interoperable tools.

Thanks to software-based networking's inherent flexibility, networking, once so staid and stable, is now one of the most dynamic aspects of modern IT.