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Programmable network

Programmable network definition

A programmable network is a network infrastructure that allows customizing and controlling network behavior through software. It's different from traditional networks which rely on physical hardware. Here, software tools can change how the network operates — that makes it adaptable to changing needs and technologies.

See also: software-defined networking, software-defined infrastructure, network function virtualization, application programming interface

How a programmable network works

  • Software-defined networking (SDN). This is the main part of programmable networks. It splits the network into two parts: the control plane decides where data goes, and the data plane actually moves the data. This separation lets network administrators use software to control the network from one place.
  • Network functions virtualization (NFV). Some network tasks normally require special hardware, such as routers and firewalls. With NFV, these functions can be done by software running on regular computers.
  • Application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs let software interact with the network hardware and control its behavior. They also help create sophisticated tools for managing and automating the network.

Uses of programmable networks

  • Data centers. Programmable networks are crucial in data centers for managing complex traffic patterns. They help divide resources efficiently, improve bandwidth management, and enhance security.
  • Cloud computing. Programmable networks make it easier to adjust resources as needed, handle many cloud users or groups, and set up network services. They also allow creating flexible virtual networks that can be changed fast to respond to different needs.
  • Telecommunications. Telecom companies use programmable networks to manage their infrastructure more efficiently. For example, they can help roll out new services like 5G faster and manage traffic across different regions and systems.
  • Internet of things (IoT). Programmable networks provide the infrastructure for handling many connected devices. They allow for efficient data routing, real-time analysis, and better security.
  • Research and education. Academic and research institutions use programmable networks for experimenting and teaching about networks.