What is Software Defined Networking (SDN)
Unifi (and Meraki) are SDN products.
With typical managed switches (e.g. HP Websmart switch), you need to go to the IP of each switch and configure from each switch individually. There may be a software that can manage all these switches at once, but this is additional layer and not part of the switch design. The configuration software is hosted directly on each switch. With this design, common configurations like VLAN, user accounts need to be mirrored across the switch. If you change the password on one switch, you need to do so on every other switch. A mis-configuration of a switch can potentially bring down parts, or the entire network.
SDN works differently. Configuration is done on a portal or a dashboard on a web browser. Configuration is made on the portal, and the settings are then pushed down to the networking equipment.
With Unifi, although you still need to configure the port settings on each switch individually, other aspects like VLAN definitions, network security, user management etc are global and applied to everything thing in your network.
While the Unifi controller is not as mature as Meraki, it can still stand on it’s own.
Meraki’s network management tool is a cloud only solution. With Unifi you have the option of hosting the Unifi controller software either in your local network, or on the Internet.
Locally you can host the software inside a virtual machine (recommended if you have a lot of users). You also have the option to purchase Unifi products like a Unifi Cloud Key, or the Cloud Key Gen 2. The downside of the latter options is it will take up a Ethernet port in your LAN. And now there’s a third product, the UDM-Pro. The upside of this is it does not take up the port like the previous solutions. The controller software is now built into the router as an application. The application is now part of their new ecosystem - the DreamOS.
Comment from: Member
This video sums up the flaws of UDM-Pro. It’s really only good for very small businesses, or the home.