40% of IT Pros Will Embrace SDN Within 24 Months

While only 16% of IT managers intend to implement some form of software-defined networking (SDN) during the next 12 months, 40% plan to implement it in less than two years, according to a new survey from Silver Peak, a provider of data center and virtual wide area network (WAN) optimization solutions. More than half (59%) of respondents feel SDN is important to their IT strategies and 20% consider it “very important”.

SDN, Virtualization, and Cloud Computing Infographic“Software-defined networking is riding the fine line between promise and hype,” said Larry Cormier, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Silver Peak. While the definition of exactly what is SDN is a moving target, the survey shows that enterprise IT professionals are excited about virtualization. “It is a proven path to both capital cost savings and operational efficiencies, which matches exactly our own recent experience as we’ve seen virtual WAN Op adoption grow 900% in the last year.”

SDN started its evolution from hype to promise earlier this year when networking giant Cisco jumped on the SDN bandwagon with the Cisco Open Network Environment (Cisco One) initiative, to be delivered through a set of platform APIs, agents and controllers, and overlay network technologies. The next major push came from VMware’s decision to buy Nicira, Inc. for $1.26 billion, a substantial premium for a young company with few paying customers. At the start of November, Brocade picked up Vyatta, an SDN development firm specializing in multi-application virtualization technology and cloud-based platforms.

One of the more interesting aspects of all this activity writes Arthur Cole in a recent article, is that even though we are talking about major changes to IT infrastructure, the names HP, IBM and Dell are rarely mentioned in SDN conversations. All three have expressed support for SDN in one form or another, but for the most part, VMware and Cisco are the driving forces in this phase of virtualization.

Network management analyst Tracy Corbo of Enterprise Management Associates blogged that one reason for this absence is that the people currently driving this effort the hardest are service providers, and not the average enterprise network engineer. She said it appears that enterprise networking pros are still largely in the research and perhaps early testing phases of SDN, but not yet deploying this technology.

Corbo believes SDN is bifurcating in two major directions — one which addresses the needs of the system operations teams responsible for server virtualization deployments, and one which addresses the needs of network operations teams responsible for physical networking hardware. There are also two SDN approaches that appear to be gaining the most attention: one which centers on SDN controllers and is mostly being driven by equipment vendors (e.g.  IBM, NEC and HP), and the other which emphases building overlay networks (VMware and Nicira).

IDC predicted that the SDN market will grow from $200 million in 2013 to $2 billion by 2016. Early players include Arista Networks, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks, NEC (and IBM), and VMware (and Nicira).

Virtualization appears to be a driving force behind SDN, said Silver Peak. Two-thirds of those polled indicated they were “going virtual” either because of better uptime and high availability (33.3%), or for the ability to deliver new services faster (36.5%). Nearly three-fourths (73%) are currently using virtualization in their branch offices, and nearly all (95%) have implemented virtualization in their data centers. Given the choice between physical or virtual WAN optimization in their branch offices, the vast majority (81.6%) indicated they prefer virtual.

“This finding certainly reinforces the value, flexibility and simplicity that IT professionals see in virtual solutions,” said Cormier.