Traditional vs. Software-Defined: What’s the Difference?

Everyone is talking about traditional networking versus software-defined networking. The topic is important for how the industry thinks that it’s going to go in the future. It’s a fundamental shift in thinking that goes far beyond implementing a new protocol or two, with an impact on any technology where there’s a traditional vs. software-defined debate.

Traditional vs. Software-Defined

We’re going to use “traditional” to refer to the way the technology world has been doing things in the relatively recent past. For networking, this goes back a ways; for other technologies, it may be a little more recent. Whatever the specific timeframe, traditional focuses on the physical components and concepts built around them. Some traditional concepts don’t directly involve physical components, but they were built with the physical ideology in mind.

Virtual was a small step forward, as it took the physical and untied it from the actual components. However, the core concepts in virtual still revolved around the physical, as a virtual web host still offered processors, storage, RAM and other components contained in a physical web server, even if they were represented in software instead.

Software-defined is a much bigger conceptual shift than virtual was. It completely moves away from the physical ideology and adopts the logical instead. You don’t have to consider the underlying tools; all you need to do is focus on what you want to do. This concept is so radical because, in the past, everyone has had to consider the physical first and work your way from there. Now that you’re entering a world where you no longer base your concepts on the physical, you’re working from a completely different map.

What Are the Major Implications?

You need to learn to think in a different way about your IT infrastructure. You have to get out of the physical and start going toward the logical construct, which is an approach more typically seen in application development. The people who haven’t previously worked on the infrastructure side are now more core to this process, bringing entirely different skill sets to the table.

Software-defined brings a significant advantage to technology areas where there have been difficult divides between the available infrastructure and what people want to accomplish. Security is an excellent example. People who are highly skilled in cybersecurity generally aren’t also brilliant network engineers and flawless infrastructure administrators. The shift to logical concepts helps IT security specialists create a more secure environment without spending time trying to understand the underlying hardware. They can directly apply their knowledge to speed up the process.

So What Do You Need to Do?

You have to keep in mind that there’s a major concept shift as you’re doing research on new technology and solutions. You can’t try to understand it from the traditional point of view, as logical concepts simply don’t work in the traditional environment. You need to translate your thinking to the software-defined world. This blog post points you to your Rosetta Stone so you can start making that translation.

Before you dive in and start making decisions for your organization, back off and focus on grasping the underlying concepts. The Rosetta Stone didn’t get translated in a day, and your shift from traditional to software-defined isn’t going to happen that fast either. If you devote some time to fully grasping these new concepts, you’ll have a good change at gaining the critical understanding you need to guide your company forward into the future.

Jessica Tanenhaus

Jessica brings her love of processes to Mavenspire, driving the team to improve internal efficiencies and ensure that excellent service is provided to each and every client.

Before joining Mavenspire in 2004, Jessica worked on many different aspects of technology, from end user training to development, before moving on to data center technologies and beyond. She has worked with small companies, operating on little more than a shoestring, as well as Fortune 500 companies, allowing her to apply solutions and provide services to companies of all sizes.

Jessica is committed to forming effective teams that share her passion for ensuring that all projects succeed and all problems are solved, regardless of what it takes to reach that resolution.

When not at Mavenspire, Jessica might be found teaching herself Hebrew (her first non-European language!), composing songs, or playing with the three adorable house rabbits that she has adopted.

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