Software-defined networks and network functions virtualization (SDN and NFV) made a lot of progress this year, and development continues. Just as importantly, the public profiles of the new approaches are higher and, hence, acceptance more likely. There are no overnight sensations in networking – either in the lab or the board room.
Steve Alexander is Ciena’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, so he has a dog in the SDN/NFV hunt. That doesn’t mean that what he says should automatically be discounted, however. He used a post at Network World to suggest that the year ahead will be SDNs’ coming-out party:
In 2015, the technology will begin the journey down that path with the first deployments of SDN in telco networks across the globe. This will be a huge step and could push SDN toward achieving critical mass; we expect to even see SDN deployed on global submarine networks to enable more dynamic services than anything available in the past.
Alexander seems to put NFV on the same general trajectory, but a year behind: Real-world deployments in 2015 will get the ball rolling toward virtualized replacements of hardware devices.
The growth potential is staggering. Infonetics Research, according to The VAR Guy, predicts that the SDN and NFV markets will bypass $11 billion annually by 2018. The market in 2013 was less than $500 million. NFV will dominate, the report says. The larger piece of the NFV pie will be applications, not overall control and orchestration functions.
In a blog posted yesterday, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President for Technology and Operations John Donovan said that the carrier’s goal is to virtualize more than over 75 percent of the AT&T network by 2020. The post provides some background on where the carrier is and how it intends to achieve that ambitious goal. The bottom line is that AT&T is proposing to drastically shift the way in which its networks operate. Other carriers clearly will aim at a high level of virtualization as well.
If 2015 indeed sees a commercial explosion for SDNs, vendors such as Plexxi will be in a great position. This week, the startup unveiled three SDN starter kits. They are aimed at data centers, cloud and big data applications, according to eWeek, which says that Plexxi seeks to identify itself by tailoring the startup kits to specific industries.
Companies thinking of entering the world of SDNs should educate themselves deeply on the platform. The heart and soul of an SDN network is the controller. Lightreading’s Mitch Wagner does a good job of defining what controllers are and what they do. Currently, he writes, they are mostly consigned to the data center, where the heaviest SDN action has been to date. Controllers are starting to appear in carrier and enterprise wide-area networks (WANs). The story links to a comprehensive rundown of what is available in the marketplace.
A lot of confusion, competition and disagreement remains about the technical details of SDN and NFV. What is clear, however, is that the two will be the big story in networking in 2015.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.