2014 Will NOT Be The Year Of SDN, But Interest Will Grow

It’s February, and like so many New Year’s resolutions, the list of technologies predicted to rock the IT world in the coming year are both long and too often nothing more than hype. Software Defined Networking is generating a lot of headlines (I plead the fifth), but despite the hoopla and major initiatives by the likes of , VMware, and various vendor, customer and industry groups, 2014 WILL NOT BE the year of , according to Alan Conley, CTO at – a developer of IT monitoring and management software for physical, virtual, and cloud-based IT infrastructures – and former CTO of Cisco’s Network Management Technology Group.

Networks were manual, fragile and broke so everybody was looking for a programmatic way to manage the network, he said. A study found that while 75% of enterprises have updated their IT environments in the last three years, 91% of IT decision-makers stated that their current IT infrastructures still require substantial upgrades, and 33% admitted that their organizations experience multiple network failures each week. More than half, 61%, said their corporate networks are not fit for the intended purpose, with 41% admitting that network downtime has caused their business financial hardship either directly through lost revenue or breached SLAs or from their customers’ lack of confidence.

The evolution behind SDN has been gathering momentum for more than a decade, said Conley, and it morphed into cheap switching, which was not inappropriate. “But for me, having lived the whole journey… it was about networks are hard to configure and manage.”

While it looks like adoption will be slow, we will see early adopters in 2014, Conley added, and the early data tends to support the growing interest. Various research reports put the SDN market at $3.7 billion by 2016, and between $3.52 and $35 billion by 2018.

He was familiar with Cisco’s SDN initiative which became , and thinks they did a pretty good job. However there are those that put the blame for requiring a network fix like SDN on Cisco.

Networking costs are too high, for which Brocade’s Kelly Herrell, VP/GM, Software Business Unit, puts the blame squarely on Cisco. “Look at Cisco’s margins versus Dell, 70% versus 10%.” The reason is the use of proprietary technology, and that will no longer be accepted.

To that end, earlier this week the OpenDaylight Project announced that its first open source software release Hydrogen is available for download. A community-led and industry-supported (i.e. Cisco and Brocade) open source platform to advance SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), OpenDaylight has released three versions:

-Hydrogen Base Edition for those who are exploring SDN and OpenFlow for proof-of-concepts or academic initiatives in physical or virtual environments;

-Hydrogen Virtualization Edition for data centers includes all the components of Base plus functionality for creating and managing Virtual Tenant Networks and virtual overlays, and includes applications for security and network management; and,

-Service Provider Edition is for providers and carriers who manage existing networks and want to plot a path to SDN and NFV, with Base plus protocol support commonly encountered in service provider networks, as well as security and network management applications.

If 2014 won’t be the Year of SDN, it will see a rise in popularity as early adopter companies realize the ability to deploy vendor solutions, said Conley. What has only been available to the likes of Yahoo and Google will reach a broader audience as the general concept of being able to describe the needs of an application/tenant in an abstract form in terms of compute, network and storage really catch on this year.

This is a very complex challenge and we have long way to go, he said. “It’s pretty obvious everybody is seeing this problem and trying to solve it.”

Author: Steve Wexler

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1 Comment

  1. It makes perfect sense that 2014 will be a year of experimentation still. I think most of the commercial products are still coming to market, though a lot of the announcements might leave people thinking there is more there than there really is. What will be interesting is how this plays out. I suspect that people start small, and with a single vendor. How they expand beyond the small deployments will define who wins and loses. And whether that expansion is done using a controller as an integration point (as with OpenDaylight) or uses something else will be instructive as well.

    I do take a little bit of exception to one point in the article. The reason Cisco’s margins are high is not because of proprietary technology. Price and margin are dictated by competition. They have been the only real game in town. Vendors have been more interested in creating Cisco equivalents rather than Cisco alternatives, operating under the theory that a small amount of a large TAM is a solid business.

    SDN is changing the game a bit. It changes the requirements for legacy features. The increased competition – not whether something is proprietary or not – is what will bring the pricing (and potentially the margins) down.

    -Mike Bushong (@mbushong)

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