NETWORKING

  • 02/11/2016
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How SDN Interest Has Evolved

Research reveals how some drivers for enterprise SDN deployment have shifted while others remain constant.

In 2012, I conducted original market research into what network professionals thought would drive them to deploy SDN. Late last year, I published an ebook with updated SDN market research. Comparing the 2012 results with the 2015 results provides insight into how the thinking about SDN has and hasn’t changed over the last few years.

One way that the thinking about SDN has changed is that back in 2012 any discussion of SDN focused entirely on the data center. Today, there still is a lot of interest in implementing SDN in data centers. However, today there is also a lot of interest in implementing SDN both in the WAN and in branch and campus networks.

Consequently, while the 2012 research focused entirely on the data center, the 2015 study was structured to separately explore the factors driving SDN deployment in data centers, the WAN as well as branch and campus networks. While the 2015 survey questions were somewhat different than the ones asked in 2012, they are close enough to highlight trends. 

The table below contains the top five factors that were driving interest in SDN back in 2012. It also contains the percentage of the survey respondents who indicated that that factor would drive their organization to implement SDN.

Factor

% of Respondents

Better utilize network resources

42%

Automate provisioning and management

35%

Improve security

32%

Implement network wide policies

31%

Reduce costs

29%

Table 2 below contains the top five factors that the 2015 research indicates is driving interest in deploying SDN in data centers.

Factor

% of Respondents

Support the dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual resources

39%

Ease the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning

36%

Better utilize network resources

22%

Perform traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of the network

18%

More easily scale network functionality

16%

The 2015 survey respondents were asked to indicate the factors that are driving their company’s interest in a SDN-based WAN.  Their responses are shown below in Table 3.

Factor

% of Respondents

Ease the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning

33%

Better utilize network resources

30%

Perform traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of the network

23%

More easily scale network functionality

22%

Support the dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual resources

22%

The 2015 survey respondents also were asked to indicate the factors driving their company’s interest in SDN-based branch and campus networks. Their responses are shown below in Table 4.

Factor

% of Respondents

Ease the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning

37%

Better utilize network resources

25%

More easily scale network functionality

20%

Support the dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual resources

18%

Reduce OPEX

17%

The factors listed in Table 4 are very similar to those in Table 2 and 3. One difference is that while easing the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning is a key driver of SDN in data centers, the WAN and branch and campus networks, it's a more dominant driver in branch and campus networks. Another difference is that reducing OPEX is one of the top five drivers of SDN-based branch and campus networks. It is not a top driver of either SDN-based data center LANs or SDN-based WANs.

The bottom line

Relative to the data center, easing the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning was very important for networking pros in 2012 and still is in 2015. In fact, easing the administrative burden of configuration and provisioning is a key factor driving interest in any type of SDN-based network. Another thing that hasn’t changed over the last few years is that better utilization of  network resources is still a top factor driving interest SDN- based data center LANs. However, it was mentioned about half as often in 2015 as it was in 2012.

The following factors were all top five factors in 2012, but not in 2015: improve security; implement network-wide policies; and reduce costs.

Supporting the dynamic movement, replication and allocation of virtual resources was not included in the 2012 study . It was included in the 2015 survey and the results show that it is the primary factor driving the current interest in SDN-based data center LANs. Other factors that weren’t in the top five in 2012 but are in 2015:

  • Perform traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of the network
  • More easily scale network functionality

Given that the interest in SDN-based WANs and branch and campus LANs is relatively new, it's difficult to say what’s changed in this regard. What can be said is that relative to both the WAN and to branch and campus LANs, there is strong interest in SDN as a way to better utilize network resources. Given the potential that a SD-WAN has to reduce the cost of WAN circuitry, one of the biggest surprises coming out of the 2015 research is how few network professionals think that reducing OPEX is a major factor driving SD-WAN deployment.

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Comments

White-label switches

Excellent, very interesting to know the survey comparison. Yes, some sees SDN to reduce the cost by replacing campus switches with white label hardware and SDN controller to use OpenFlow or any other southbound API that handles while label switches. I’m not sure how close we are in achieving this in production and handles the operations flawlessly. The configuration and provisioning are the key factor, however there are business logic that needs network devices to be re-provisioned and provides programmability of network dynamically through the north bound interface which could be an another key levers that interest enterprises to consider SDN.