The Early Report Card On SDN Is The Dreaded ‘Can Do Better’

Looks like Japan will get the world’s first SDN-based cloud migration service, On-premises Connection, according to NTT Communications. The world’s largest telephone company (by revenue) said that by connecting on-premises systems and cloud in the same network segment using SDN-compatible gateway equipment installed in the customer’s system, the service substantially reduces the workload normally required to design and configure on-premises networks. Also, once in the cloud environment after migration, customers can continue to use the existing IP addresses of their on-premises systems, a further reduction of workload.

In an earlier interview with Doug Junkins, NTT America CTO, he told [IT T&A] that the main focus for SDN right now is on cloud and hosting services to enterprises. “It’s how we will deliver services in the future in a cost efficient and effective manner. It’s the ability to operate complete networks much more efficiently from a configuration and manpower perspective, enabling self-provisioning services for customers, all in an automated and open fashion.”

According to IDC, the SDN market will reach $200 million this year, but will increase tenfold by 2016, to $2 billion. Another study reports that nearly 25% of the enterprises interviewed have already deployed SDN technology in their data centers, and 33% plan to do so by the end of next year.

However, it also appears that most organizations are still uncertain what SDN means. While 89% of organizations are at least discussing software defined networking, only 51% could correctly define what it is.

Enterprises may not know what SDN is, but they do know that they need help with their networks, according to Enterprise Strategy Group Senior Analyst Bob Laliberte. ‘Networking admins are struggling to keep pace with burgeoning data center scale and spending most of their time maintaining the network rather than innovating. In fact, ESG research data reveals that networking professionals remain burdened by manual processes (40%), difficulties associated with provisioning and configuration management (36%), integration between network ops and other IT domains (34%), and a lack of maintenance windows that lead to new implementation stagnation (29%).’

A week ago at GigaOM’s Structure conference SDN took a beating, with the conclusion that the jury really is still out on it. SDN was also deemed not relevant for a variety of use cases, and it was also roundly declared a loser, and something that hasn’t really changed in the years since it has hit the network scene.

Junkins agreed that a lot of enterprise customers are still trying to figure out what SDN is and how it will affect them. In fact, he said SDN may not be a huge benefit for enterprises’ internal networks, unlike the carriers. “We see the real cost savings we’re going to see from SDN on the automation and OpEx side.”

He wasn’t so agreeable with the forecast that SDN will drive the adoption of commodity, low-margin switches, which should be good news for Cisco. I don’t see the network hardware itself is going to become off the shelf x86 hardware, he said because it’s too complex. “We’re a long way off, if we ever see that case.”

Instead, the focus will be on automation and reducing complexities, he said. “I think Cisco is right in the focus they’re taking… (to) automate their existing products for their customers. We’re seeing that from other equipment vendors like Juniper to improve automation.”


Author: Steve Wexler

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  1. Doug is absolutely right about the need to automate tasks and drive opex down. One of the issues in the enterprise is going to be how to do this in environments where the network team is siloed from the other IT teams (compute and storage).

    Perhaps the biggest long-term cost savings will come from orchestrating application workloads across all of compute, storage, and networking. That is non-trivial. And the initial focus on the ‘N’ in SDN means people are not as active as they could be in working on the orchestration side.

    I think enterprises are going to find that they need to take care of some organizational and skill set things to prepare for SDN. Companies looking to make tangible progress early ought to consider these preparatory steps, before even buying new SDN gear.

    -Mike Bushong (@mbushong)

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