SDN:The Evolution from Hype to Competitive Advantage

Redefine Your Networking Landscape

Tim Allen

Unlike many hyped technologies that either never work as advertised, or arrive long after their 15 minutes of fame, Software Defined Networking (SDN) is delivering real-world benefits to its users.

A quick reminder on the foundational definition is good to review. SDN – the physical separation of the network control plane from the forwarding plane, and where a control plane controls several devices – is designed to deliver a host of networking services to datacenter and enterprise networks including automated provisioning, virtualization, and programmability. And it’s delivering, as designed.

Positioned at the peak of inflated expectations of Gartner’s Networking Hype Cycle back in 2013, SDN (one time, known as ‘still done nothing‘) is ‘firmly entrenched’ in the trough of disillusionment today. “During 2015, we started to see production adoption of SDN solutions, though broad deployments are still relatively rare.”

NFV and SDN Technology Drive Changes

While rare, that’s not to say SDN deployments and its companion technology, network functions virtualization (NFV), are not accelerating. The numbers indicate that the networking industry – vendors, service providers, and customers – are eager to embrace the future of software-defined everything. For instance:

  • The global SDN market is expected to reach $132.9 billion by 2022, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 47% during the period 2016-2022, with enterprises as the major end users (43% of the global market revenue in 2015), followed by telecommunication service providers.
  • SDN will compose nearly 40% of global enterprise network infrastructure revenue (roughly $12.7 billion) by 2020.
  • As of 2016, 75% of telecom carriers have already deployed or intend to deploy SDN technology.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, the service provider NFV market will grow at a CAGR of 42%, from $2.7 billion in 2015 to $15.5 billion in 2020.
  • The software defined everything (SDE/SDX) market (SDN, SDS and SDDC) will hit $143 billion by 2022.

Set to Boom

“SDN works and SDN is ready for prime time now,” said networking guru Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. “This is good news for the entire SDN market and customers looking to deploy the solution.”

Enterprises have certainly bought into the promise of SDN. According to a February survey, 39% of enterprises are either currently using or planning to adopt SDN, but 49% would do so within 13 to 24 months. Another 25% are considering the technology, but had yet to set up a timeline.

SDN’s top perceived benefits are cost savings (up to 30-50% savings on capital and operating costs over five years), improved network performance, increased productivity, and improved security. The top three implementation challenges are costs, integration, and security.

“SDN promises to introduce much-needed agility into customers’ environments,” said TBR Data Center Senior Analyst Krista Macomber. “However, for customers, getting there requires navigating a costly and complex path spanning not only technology but also business silos,” she added. It should also be noted that these SDN solutions also include “network visibility.” Now operators of the network have an integrated panorama view of services that are running on the network that allow for IT and business leaders to make decisions about how to prioritize application delivery.

Leverage the Digital Future with Connection

The emergence of SDN comes at a time when networks are challenged to enable an increasingly digital world and the unrelenting growth in devices, data, velocity, and their significance to business success. A trusted partner with networking expertise and experience can help you navigate the complexities of the software-defined technologies, and ensure you can take advantage of the speed and agility of the digital future.