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Best Free Software Defined Networking (SDN) Training and Materials

Best Free Software Defined Networking (SDN) Training and Materials

Software-defined networking, aka SDN, is in the process of remaking the networking world as we know it, particularly in its ever-increasing manifestations in the cloud. That's because SDN is to networking as virtual machines are to physical computers, and as virtual storage is to hard disks and solid state drives.

As one of the three fundamental underpinnings that makes cloud computing possible in both private and public cloud infrastructures, SDN is an essential technology for modern IT professionals to understand and master. To help get you started down this road, we've assembled a collection of free learning materials on the subject, along with pointers to various related certifications.

MORE: New and Upcoming Software Defined Networking Certifications

SDN for Dummies!

Working with the custom publications group at Wiley, Cisco created a free e-book entitled Software Defined Networking For Dummies. It's not a bad place to start, even though Cisco has its own unique take on SDN. You can also check out Cisco's free collection of SDN seminars, which present dozens of courses in the areas of SDN, NFV, network programmability and more (worth checking out, especially for those who are already Cisco-certified, or considering such certification).

Another e-book on SDN is free to Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited subscribers. It's entitled SDN and OpenFlow for Beginners ($7.99). This vendor-neutral text includes broad coverage of SDN and even offers hands-on labs.

SDN introductions and overviews galore

The Open Networking Foundation sponsors the ONF Certified SDN Certification Professional Program. Today this includes two certifications: the ONF Certified SDN Associate, aka OCSA, and the ONF Certified SDN Engineer, aka OCSE. While you do have to pay to take those exams, and for-a-fee training is available for these certifications, the ONF documents a sizable set of prerequisites for these credentials (OCSA pre-reqs, OCSE pre-reqs). These include all kinds of information that IT professionals will find helpful in better understanding the subject matter, and digging more deeply into its concepts and practices.

BluePlanet offers a nice set of SDN and NFV (Network Function Virtualization, a subset of SDN stuff) resources, including pointers to lots of introductory and explanatory materials.

Free courses of many shapes and sizes

Udacity offers a free version of the Georgia Tech online course entitled Computer Networking: Security and Software Defined Networking, featuring instructors Joshua Valdez and Nick Feamster. Feamster has since moved on to my alma mater, Princeton, where a class he taught on Software Defined Networking is available as a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC through Coursera. (For an excellent overview of this offering, read these online reviews of the Coursera course.)

The Microsoft Virtual Academy, aka MVA, also offers several free SDN-related courses, including:

If you visit the MVA home page, other MVA courses also show up if you type SDN into the search box there. But as far as I can tell, other hits only offer tangential coverage of the topic.

The folks who built the world-famous Graphical Network Simulator (aka GNS, of which version 3 is currently in use) also operate a community called the GNS3 Academy. It offers a free SDN and OpenFlow Introduction. The course is comprised of seven modules, and includes more than 85 minutes of video from OpenFlow expert David Bombal. In much the same vein, ipSpace offers a seven-hour free course entitled Introduction to SDN, Network Automation, OpenFlow and NFV.

Free software and labs for doing SDN

Networking company Big Switch provides online access to network labs for a free hands-on SDN experience. Registration is required, but you can download free community editions of the Big Switch software for your own equipment if you prefer.

What was once a Sourceforge project from On.Lab called Mininet now belongs to the ONF. Nevertheless, Mininet offers free SDN software and documentation on how to install and use it through SDX Central. Also, the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) consortium offers a free SDN operating system for service providers. Anybody can download and use it for non-commercial purposes, such as learning more about working with SDN and the ONOS itself.

If you poke around online you can also find all kinds of for-a-fee materials on SDN as well. The ONF used to offer a valuable reading list of SDN books (the link here is to the Wayback Machine in February 2017 because the information remains useful). NetCraftsmen offers a comprehensive SDN Reading List as well. Scads of commercial training companies are happy to take your money to put you in a classroom seat (virtual or physical) for classroom encounters, too.