Top of the heap

Staying On Top Of The SDN Heap

Top of the heapIt’s a good news/bad news situation for Cisco, according to a couple of new reports. The good news is that Cisco still dominates the networking industry, showing its heels to the more than 100 vendors competing for a slice of a $50-billion pie. On the bad news front — or at least problematic from Cisco’s ironist/proprietary perspective — 87% of businesses intend to have SDN live in North American data centers by 2016, and nearly 25% are ready to consider non-traditional network vendors for their SDN applications and orchestration software. And just in case this isn’t complicated enough for you, another report has surfaced about the growing importance of the network.

“Cisco dominates the enterprise networking and communication market by a wide margin, due to offering the broadest solution portfolio, receiving positive feedback from enterprises, and capturing significant market share,” stated Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video at Infonetics Research, and lead author of the report 2014 Enterprise Networking and Communication Equipment Vendor Scorecard. “The battle for second place is raging between Brocade, HP, and Juniper, and each has unique strengths: Brocade has the strongest financials, HP is growing the fastest, and Juniper has experienced the highest improvement in enterprise feedback.” The other vendors in the close-but-no-cupcake category are Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya and NEC.

If there was any doubt that SDN interest was accelerating, the 2014 SDN Strategies: North American Enterprise Survey should put those concerns to rest. “Software-defined networking (SDN) spells opportunity for existing and new vendors, and the time to act is now,” said Cliff Grossner, Ph.D., directing analyst for data center, cloud, and SDN at Infonetics. He added that the leaders in the SDN market serving the enterprise will be solidified during the next two years as lab trials give way to live production deployments in 2015 and significant growth by 2016.

“There’s still some work to do on the part of SDN vendors,” said Grossner. “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.”

Key findings include:

  • enterprises are expanding the number of data center sites and LAN sites they operate over the next 2 years and are investing significant capital on servers and LAN Ethernet switching equipment;
  • a majority of respondents are currently conducting data center SDN lab trials or will do so this year; 45% are planning to have SDN in live production in the data center in 2015, growing to 87% in 2016;
  • respondents’ plans for LAN SDN are nearly identical to their data center plans;
  • the top drivers for deploying SDN are improving management capabilities and improving application performance, while potential network interruptions and interoperability with existing network equipment are the leading barriers;
  • 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;
  • 17% of respondents’ data center Ethernet switch ports are on bare metal switches, and only 21% of those are in-use for SDN; and,
  • nearly 25% of businesses are ready to consider non-traditional network vendors for their SDN applications and orchestration software.

So, while Cisco continues to be networking’s Numero Uno, it will face increasing pressure to fight off both traditional and non-traditional competitors at the same time networking is becoming even more critical. According to Dan Bieler, Principal Analyst, Forrester, the enterprise network is the ugly duckling of the enterprise technology landscape, looked at disparagingly by CIOs and often ignored by the business. However, the ugly duckling is about to become the swan and take flight.

He said the network represents the vital underpinning for projects like cloud, mobility, and big data, and it increasingly evolves into a business-critical asset for companies looking to succeed in the age of the customer. “It becomes the nervous system of the digital business.”

In his report, The Enterprise Network Enables Business Innovation, he notes that network performance will link to business outcomes. “The enterprise network is no longer about service-level agreements like uptime or downtime. In the age of the customer, the way to measure network performance will have to link much more explicitly to business outcomes like service consumption, customer satisfaction, or orders completed. CIOs will have to work closely with the business in order to determine the correct metrics for success.”

The bottom line is that the network is growing in importance in the emerging digital enterprise, and while Cisco leads the vendor pack, new demands, new solutions, and new and existing competitors will compel the company to be at the top of its game if it wants to stay on top of the market. Which is good news for the network world.

About the author
Steve Wexler
Steve is a proficient IT journalist, editor, publisher, and marketing communications professional. For the past two-plus decades, he has worked for the world’s leading high-technology publishers. Currently a contributor to Network Computing, Steve has served as editor and reporter for the Canadian affiliates of IDG and CMP, as well as Ziff Davis and UBM in the U.S. His strong knowledge of computers and networking technology complement his understanding of what’s important to the builders, sellers and buyers of IT products and services.