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Survey shows growing interest in SDN, where and how companies might deploy the tech

Jim Metzler | Jan. 8, 2016
However, SDN won’t be broadly adopted until there are mature solutions, well understood and accepted business cases and a set of best practices relative to how to integrate SDN into the rest of the infrastructure.

Software Defined Networking has been a hot subject for a few years now, and from the beginning the discussion correctly pointed out that a key characteristic of SDN is the separation of at least some of the data control plane from the data forwarding plane. At other times, however, the discussion seemed to mistakenly equate SDN and OpenFlow or SDN and network virtualization. And, as so often happens in this industry, the initial SDN articles were flagrantly optimistic in terms of when the tech would be widely adopted.

We recently completed a survey of 246 IT professionals – The 2015 Guide to SDN and NFV – to get a better handle on what’s driving interest in SDN, the opportunities and impediments, and where, how and when companies plan to pursue the technology. 

Regarding when they might pull the trigger, survey respondents were given a multiple choice question and asked to indicate the alternatives that described their approach to implementing SDN.  Multiple answers were allowed, and their responses are shown in Table 1, as are the responses to the same question given a year earlier to a similar group of respondents.

010716 sdn table1
Click on chart to enlarge

Table 1 indicates that while the utilization of SDN in production networks remains limited, it has increased somewhat significantly in the last year and should increase somewhat significantly again next year. Which begs the question, what is driving the interest?  Where will SDN be deployed?  How will it be deployed? When will it be widely adopted?

What’s driving the interest in SDN?

Survey participants were asked which opportunities they thought SDN could address (see Table 2). Quite a few, as it turns out.  IT is generally optimistic about SDN, but interestingly enough, relatively few believe SDN will help them reduce CAPEX or reduce complexity, which were early expectations.

010716 sdn table2
Click on chart to enlarge

Identifying the drivers of SDN is key to understanding its status, but so is identifying the impediments that stand in the way of broad adoption. With that in mind, survey respondents were given a list of impediments and asked to identify the two that would be the biggest inhibitors to adopting SDN sometime in the next two years.  Given the state of the industry, it isn’t surprising that the immaturity of the available products topped the list (Table 3).

010716 sdn table3
Click on chart to enlarge

Obviously, the maturity of the products and enabling technologies will improve over time. However, some of the other key inhibitors won’t just naturally disappear. These inhibitors, which need to be aggressively addressed by vendors and network organizations, include concerns about how to integrate SDN into legacy infrastructure and lack of a compelling business case.


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