Software defined networking (SDN) is a relatively new term for a relatively new concept, virtualizing the network, but if it’s “riding the fine line between promise and hype”, according to Silver Peak’s Larry Cormier, a new survey from the WAN optimization vendor reports that while only 16% of IT managers intend to implement some form during the next 12 months, 40% plan to implement it in less than two years. IDC has predicted that the SDN market will grow from $200 million in 2013 to $2 billion by 2016. Early players include Arista Networks, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks, NEC (and IBM) and VMware (and Nicira).
In the age of cloud computing, the limitations of the hardware-dependent network have naturally led to more interest in network virtualization, said Ben Cherian, Chief Strategy Officer at Midokura. The developer of MidoNet, a distributed, de-centralized, multi-layer software defined virtual network solution designed for IaaS, predicts a lot of movement in the SDN market in 2013.
“Every major networking company will introduce an SDN strategy,” he said. “At the end of the day, people are going to want to have an answer to what is the SDN approach for the organization.”
Virtualization will move past compute and storage, and will disrupt networking, said Cherian. “We have now solutions to virtualize computers, to virtualize storage, but we do not have solutions for virtualizing the network.”
This virtualization will lead to more commodization of switches, as more intelligence is pushed onto the network, and less intelligence will be required on the switches, he said. This will have significant implications for the top switch makers, the Ciscos and Junipers, with their market share eroding as commodity switches catch on, unless they can evolve their visions like Cisco with its ONE intiative.
Cisco jumped on the SDN bandwagon with the Cisco Open Network Environment (Cisco One) initiative earlier this year, and then VMware paid a hefty premium for Nicira, Inc., a small SDN vendor, followed last month by Brocade picking up Vyatta, an SDN development firm specializing in multi-application virtualization technology and cloud-based platforms. Cherian predicts SDN acquisitions will really take off in 2013.
SDN is a complicated market, with many networking vendors
claiming some level of capability, wrote 451 Research following the Nicira acquisition in July. Once Nicira is integrated into VMware’s management suite, there will be pressure on greenfield deployments in large datacenters. There will certainly be impact in the top-of-rack switch market, but large capacity switching and routing will still be required at any virtualization edge.
Another analyst’s report, from Lee Doyle for GigaOM (An overview of the software-defined networking market, November 9, 2012 ), stated that like any new technology, SDNs have a relatively steep learning curve, and there are significant barriers to adoption. Challenges to SDN adoption include immature standards, lack of interoperability, lack of tools, need for training, and legacy migration. Given these factors, Doyle expects SDN to be implemented in an evolutionary fashion in mainstream IT organizations. A typical time frame for complex IT technology to reach maturity is three to five years.
Cherian said 2013 will be a market education year for SDN. “Right now vendors are trying to figure out where they need to go. After the strategies, they’ll need to come up with products and how to go to customers… we’re still in very early days.”
Towards the end of the year these products will start showing up. “People don’t buy technology to buy technology, they buy technology to solve problems. Those vendors that really speak to the pain points of their customers will have the most traction next year.”