The Complex March Toward SDNs Accelerates

Carl Weinschenk

There have been at least three very interesting postings about software-defined networks (SDNs) during the past week or so. None of them carry startling news. It is important, however, to keep up with SDNs, which over the next few years will gradually take control of telecom and IT networking.

The second paragraph of this CXOtoday story about a study pointing toward accelerated uptake of SDNs does a good job of condensing what they are and why they are important:

Adoption of SDN technology has accelerated in recent years from vendor sales of $10 million in 2007 to $252 million last year. Companies are turning to software-centric approaches to control their computer networks as they move beyond decades-old infrastructure that wasn’t designed for today’s cloud computing.

The bottom line is that the evolution of networks is an ongoing process. Changes in network uses are occurring faster than in the past, and those changes are more drastic. Finding clever ways to accommodate those new uses while minimizing physical changes is a great thing.

The study referenced in the story was conducted by Plexxi, SDNCentral and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The companies predict that the SDN market will pass the $35 billion mark in the next five years and say that this is “far higher” than previously reported. The study also looks at venture capital funding, which is a precursor of that growth. According to the study, such investments rose from $10 million in 2007 to $454 million last year.

Nothing is certain, however, when it comes to such massive changes. Predictions are, after all, just educated guesses. It is important to acknowledge that the task of doing what SDNs are intended to do is hugely complex. Many approaches are possible. Paul Rubens at Enterprise Networking Planet writes that the real action only will get underway once the big players map out their plans.

Rubens suggests that this is starting to happen, at least for Cisco and, to a lesser degree, Juniper Networks. He describes Cisco’s Open Network Environment (ONE) controller and how it coexists with the open source OpenFlow approach. Rubens suggests that Juniper’s strategy is fuzzier. It focuses, he writes, on integrating the products of Contail, a company it acquired at the end of last year, with its JunosV App Engine.

A very good background on SDNs was posted this week by Brian Profitt at ReadWrite. He lays out the concept, the complexities and the potential benefits in jargon-free and accessible terms. It is a good link to send to C-level decision makers. Arthur Cole, my colleague here at IT Business Edge, added an informative Q&A on the topic with Bruce Tolley, the vice president of solutions and outbound marketing at Solarflare.

It behooves people working on both the enterprise and telecommunications sides to familiarize themselves with the SDN concept. It is a very important evolutionary step that is inevitable, in one form or another.



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