What Is Software Defined Networking In Windows Server 2016?

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In today’s Ask the Admin, I will look at how Software Defined Networking (SDN) in Windows Server 2016 can add a virtualization layer on top of your physical network hardware. This can provide more flexibility, security, and reliability for cloud apps.



Cloud computing is all about agility and elasticity. It is also about being able to quickly deploy the resources an app needs on demand. Windows Server 2016 was updated to include several features that helped Microsoft achieve those goals in Azure. One of these is SDN.

Instead of depending on what your physical network infrastructure has to offer, SDN provides an abstract layer of virtualized services that sits on top of your physical network. This enables easier and faster management and networks that can be more granularly defined for specific applications.

SDN allows networks to evolve as quickly as other cloud resources, while still providing all the security and isolation of physical network hardware. It adds micro-segmentation by means of policy. Windows manages SDN policies, which can be created and managed programmatically. Integration with Azure Stack, Azure in the cloud, or other Windows Server services allows you to have the flexibility and elasticity required for distributed cloud applications. Traditional hardware-based networks lack this.

Windows Server 2016 Network Controller (Image Credit: Microsoft)
Windows Server 2016 Network Controller (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Network Controller

Provisioned inside three Hyper-V virtual machines, Windows Server 2016 Network Controller is a central management service for configuring and monitoring SDNs.

Network Function Virtualization

Network technologies that were available in previous versions of Windows Server, as well as some other new features, have been updated to support SDN.

Software Load Balancing (SLB) and Network Address Translation

Windows Server 2016 SLB allows two or more servers to host the same workload, while it distributes network traffic between virtual resources.

RAS Gateway

If you need to connect physical and virtual networks, RAS gateways can be used to create VPNs, forwarding gateways, and GRE gateways. It can do this with redundancy.

Datacenter Firewall

There is a distributed firewall for providing granular access control at the VM network interface or subnet level.

Any edition of Windows Server 2016 can be connected to a software-defined network. Only Datacenter edition servers can run SDN infrastructure servers such as Network Controller and Load Balancing Nodes. SDN does not necessarily require you to replace your existing physical network hardware. Keep in mind, devices designed for SDN can integrate better if they are designed for use with SDN.