The Edmund Fitzgerald

SDN Riding The Wave Of A “Perfect Storm”

The Edmund FitzgeraldSoftware-defined networking (SDN) is still making its way up the charts to Gartner Hype Cycle’s Peak of Inflated Expectation, before it is expected to free-fall to the Trough of Disillusionment and then climb back up through the Slope of Enlightenment and eventually hit the Plateau of Productivity. Or, as IDC has just reported, SDN is already gaining momentum within the broader enterprise and data center networking industry. The enterprise and cloud service provider segments are forecast to explode more than tenfold from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion in 2016.

“SDN’s ability to decouple network logic and policies from the underlying network equipment allows for a more programmable network,” said Rohit Mehra, Vice President of Network Infrastructure at IDC. “Providing better alignment with the underlying applications, this programmability allows for greater levels of flexibility, innovation, and control in the network. Logic and policies that can be defined, changed, and modified result in a more dynamic network, providing the scale network administrators so desperately crave.”

IDC said that, in many respects, SDN is riding the wave of a perfect storm, with several market and technology factors converging: growth of cloud services/applications; focus on converged infrastructures (compute/storage/network) and on the software-defined data center; lessons learned (and benefits derived) from server virtualization; and customer frustration with the network’s inability to provide the flexibility required to support virtualization, cloud, and mobility. “For many of the SDN-related solution providers, some of them still in stealth-mode, 2013 is likely to be a year of reckoning,” said Brad Casemore, Research Director, Datacenter Networks.

According to the December 2012 Fundamental Telecom and Datacom Market Drivers report from Infonetics Research, SDNs are here to stay, but not today: SDNs are on service providers’ minds, but it is a longer-term challenge to find implementations of hybrid SDN and non-SDN in live networks. That would be consistent with the recent Silver Peak survey that found that only 16% of IT managers intend to implement some form of SDN during the next 12 months, but 40% plan to implement it in less than two years.

Of course, SDN is only the newest kid on the data-center-virtualization block, joining the mature ‘compute’ and up-and-coming ‘storage’ members, which are being collectively called the Software-Defined Data Center. SDDC is being championed by VMware, which poses a huge threat to networking giant Cisco, wrote The Virtualization Practice’s Bernd Harzog.

“The VMware SDDC is really a suite of data center management software, of which SDN is only a part. For Cisco to respond to this threat it might need its own SDDC strategy.”

While it’s still early days for both SDN and SDDC, we should see significant change next year as the “virtualize-everything” movement gathers momentum.

Image credit: dureall (deviantArt)