Software Defined Networking (SDN) is mainly designed to make the network more agile, flexible, and secure. SDN is a method that allows configuration of network devices like routers, switches, gateways and then lets you manage all the physical and virtual network devices through a single console from your datacenter.

This blog post provides an insight into the Software Defined Networking overview along with a brief explanation of Windows Server technologies for SDN.

SDN technology has eased the network configuration allowing the Network Administrators and Engineers to respond quickly to business requirements. A complete control of network either physical or virtual can be accessed through SDN technology using a single centralized console.

SDN provides the application or user to be isolated from the physical networks. It sits as a control layer between the ‘application layer’ and the actual network ‘infrastructure layer’. It acts like switches, routers, and connections between them.

Also, it gives network administrators more control over the network allowing them to directly define how each device sends traffic around the network.

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SDN in Windows server

Key features of SDN on Windows Server 2016

  • Network Controller
  • Hyper-V Network Virtualization
  • Hyper-V Virtual Switches
  • Software Load Balancing (SLB)
  • RAS Gateway
  • Data center Firewall
  • Windows Server Containers

Network Controller

The Network controller is one of the scalable server roles in Server 2016 that provides application programming interfaces to manage the applications such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager. These APIs are used to communicate with network controller thereby allowing it to interact with the physical network. The Network Controller can also be communicated using Command Line Interface (CLI) and PowerShell scripts.

A centralized programmable point for network controller is provided in Windows server 2016 to manage and configure the Virtual and Physical network infrastructure from your data center. This console is useful at times to troubleshoot the issues of virtual and physical network infrastructure. Also, network controller allows you to automate the configuration of your network infrastructure instead of performing manual procedures.

From network controller, we can manage and configure the following virtual and physical network devices and services.

  • Hyper-V VMs and Virtual Switches
  • Physical Network Switches
  • Physical Network Routers
  • Firewall software
  • VPN Gateways, including Remote Access Service (RAS) Multitenant Gateways
  • Load Balancers

Hyper-V Network Virtualization

Hyper-V network virtualization helps in the abstraction of resources like workloads and applications from physical network to Virtual. This lets you deploy and migrate the workloads anywhere across the clouds that may include service provider cloud, the private cloud, or the Microsoft Azure public cloud.
Additionally, Hyper-V network virtualization in Windows Server 2016 provides the following functions as Hyper-V virtual appliances which are categorized as

  • Software Load Balancing (SLB) for SDN,
  • RAS Gateway,
  • Routing control plane with BGP (HNV routing control)
  • Distributed multi-tenant firewall

Hyper-V Virtual switch

Once you install the Hyper-V role, the Hyper-V Virtual switch configurations will be available in Hyper-V manager. It is a software-based layer-2 Ethernet network switch that helps to connect the virtual machines to Physical network and Virtual Network

Hyper- V virtual switch in Server 2016 provides additional features to Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA).

Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA)

Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) is a new feature of Windows server 2016 that allows to converge and virtualize RDMA for the host. It is also an alternative solution to NIC Teaming solution, that integrates some of the NIC Teaming functionality into the Hyper-V Virtual Switch.

Using SET, you can group between one and 8 physical Ethernet network adapters into one or more software-based virtual network adapters. Generally, the performance and of virtual network adapters are fast thereby providing high fault tolerance in the event of a network adapter failure.

Software Load Balancing (SLB)

Network Controller allows multiple servers to use the same network resources. Thus, Software Load Balancing feature remains as the best solution to provide high availability for the servers using same network resources and workloads.

Software load balancing is an efficient technology that lets you control and the manage the network traffic evenly for the tenants using the virtual network resources. SLB lets you do even distribution of various resources in the same or different network domains and controls the network traffic efficiently.

RAS Gateway

When your network has multiple domains, it is connected via RAS gateway. In windows 2016 SDN uses RAS Gateway, to route the traffic between physical networks and the Virtual network. It also identifies the resource location whether it is available in the same building and the same location or it is available in a virtual data center. RAS Gateway is mainly designed to host multiple virtual networks of the tenant using Hyper-V Network Virtualization.

Data Center Firewall

Datacenter Firewall is newly included service on Windows Server 2016. It is a software-based firewall solution that is installed to configure the firewall policies into the virtual networks to protect them.

Data Center Firewall lets you define firewall rules in Windows Server 2016 and provides the following benefits:

  • Protects internet-facing workloads on virtual networks
  • Protects traffic between virtual machines on the same L2 virtual subnet as well as between virtual machines on different L2 virtual subnets
  • Protects and isolates network traffic between on-premises networks and virtual networks of the tenants

Windows Server Containers

Windows Server Containers are created using Server 2016 and then managed using Powershell and Docker. The Windows Server containers are used to isolate applications or services running on the same container host. Each container has it won lightweight OS, registry, and IP-Address. The added functionality that Server 2016 provides containers are, they can be connected to virtual networks.

For more information, you can see Windows Server Containers


Software Defined Networking is one powerful method in Network virtualization to improve flexibility and scalability of your networks. It lets you configure and manage your virtual & physical network infrastructure by adding a virtualization layer on the top of your hardware.
Hope this article helped you a long way in understanding SDN technology and its key features in Windows Server 2016.

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