Last year saw tons of activity in software-defined networking, including the introduction of Cisco's response to the hardware-marginalizing trend. This year promises to be no different.
We can expect an expansion and elongation of the trends we saw in 2013 — more implementations by end users, more work on standardizing SDN APIs, more deployments of leading vendors' products, like Cisco's Cisco ONE and VMware's NSX, more vendor customization, more industry consolidation and more killer applications.
"It really seems like potential customers have reached their limit with SDN hype and are now in more of a Missouri state of mind — that being 'show me' that everything that we have been talking about actually works and let me talk to references," says Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "So I expect that 2014 will be a rubber-meets-the-road for SDN, and vendor solutions will be put to the test to see if reality meets or exceeds expectations. Given this environment, organizations will really need to deliver."
All of this activity will help drive the SDN market beyond $3 billion in the next two or three years, according to research from IDC and Infonetics Research. IDC believes it will reach $3.7 billion by 2016, while Infonetics is a little more conservative, with a forecast of $3.1 billion by 2017.
Catalyzing it will be customers. In 2013, pioneers and early adopters such as Marist College, Bloomberg, Henry Ford Health System, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shared their early experiences with SDN.
The new year should bring more war stories, and some will include tales of more stable implementations, and the applications that ride on top of them. Cisco expects security automation, analytics and mobility enablers to be among the killer SDN apps for 2014.
ESG's Laliberte agrees on security.
"Security...has consistently ranked as the top network challenge throughout this year and is top of the list for SDN solutions," he says. "I would also expect solutions around WAN optimization and [application delivery controllers]."
Other solutions will come from the ecosystem partners of the major SDN vendors, Laliberte says. He expects those ecosystems to be a major source of expansion in 2014.
"We need to see the fruits of the partner ecosystems that were announced, so it would be great to see validated solutions coming to market based on multiple vendor ecosystems," he says. "Perhaps consumerization of IT takes hold in networking, and this takes the form of network app store as HP suggested earlier this year."
This may be aided by a standard northbound API from the SDN controller to the orchestration systems and applications, Laliberte says. The OpenDaylight consortium is working on such an API, as is the Open Networking Foundation, which announced its intentions very recently.
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