Software-defined networking gaining traction

Software-defined networking gaining traction

While government IT network managers may debate whether software-defined networking (SDN) is more sizzle than steak, two recent surveys show similar growth expectations for the technology, with about half of respondents reporting they'll soon have it in production.

Infonetics Research’s SDN Strategies: North American Enterprise Survey reported that 45 percent of respondents – who now use SDN or expect to evaluate it – anticipate having SDN in production in their data centers by end of next year, jumping to 87 percent by end of 2016. Meanwhile, Juniper Networks Inc. announced its own Software-Defined Networking Progress Report that found some 53 percent of respondents plan to adopt SDN, with 74 percent of those saying that will happen within the next year. Juniper, however, said its survey also revealed "two distinct camps," with about 47 percent of respondents saying they had no plans whatsoever to adopt SDN.

While much-hyped in the networking and virtualization industries, SDN is a loosely defined phenomenon with no exact definition and – some say – very few compelling use cases. Major tenets of SDN include open standards and increased programmability of network functions via centralized commands from a control plane that's decoupled from the data – or forwarding – plane.

SDN promises increased usage of less-expensive white-box or bare-metal commodity switches and other network devices, moving network intelligence about how to handle traffic from the devices to the central controller.

Barriers to adoption, according to Juniper’s survey, include cost, difficulty integrating with existing systems; security and lack of skills from existing employees. Likewise, Infonetics’ survey acknowledged similar challenges. Company exec Cliff Grossner said, "There's still some work to do on the part of SDN vendors. Expectations for SDN are clear, but there are still serious concerns about the maturity of the technology and the business case. Vendors need to work with their lead enterprise customers to complete lab trials and provide public demonstrations of success."

One apparent contrast in the two reports is the attitude toward hybrid implementations mixing new-age and traditional technologies. "According to the survey, [respondents] believe software-defined and traditional networks should be complementary," Juniper said. "The vast majority (63 percent) said business networks in the next five years will be a mix of software-defined and traditional."

Infonetics, however, said, "Meanwhile, enabling hybrid cloud is dead last on the list of drivers, a sign that SDN vendors have some work to do in educating enterprises that SDN can be an important enabler of hybrid cloud architectures."

A longer version of this article appeared on Virtualization Review, a sister site to GCN. 

About the Author

David Ramel is features editor at MSDN Magazine.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above