Many will agree that SDN standards such as OpenFlow have come of age in 2013. By the end of 2014, I believe that all switches will have OpenFlow client support. Demand for SDN is building, putting pressure on networking vendors to accelerate their support for OpenFlow. Soon it will cost more not to have an OpenFlow client in a switch than to have one, so it will become a standard feature.
This leads to my other predictions on the changes that we'll see in SDN next year:
Interoperability will actually happen. Numerous SDN controllers and OpenFlow-enabled switches and routers have already come to market, including the first generally available SDN controller (from NEC) supporting OpenFlow 1.3. As the OpenFlow substrate continues to build out, the focus in 2014 will be on interoperability.
To that end, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) this year kicked off its OpenFlow Conformance Testing Program, enabling vendors to demonstrate conformance with the OpenFlow specification. Currently there are three conformance testing labs (two in the US and one in China), and in October an NEC product received the first Certificate of Conformance. In the coming year, we'll see more testing done as OpenFlow conformance becomes a marketing necessity. More conformant products will be hitting the market and showcased in proofs of concept.
[Need to learn the basics of SDN? Check out our slideshow, "7 Essentials of Software-Defined Networking."]
Telcos will help drive SDN adoption. Telecommunication service providers made network functions virtualization (NFV) and SDN hot issues in 2013, and they will be a major purchasing force in the SDN market in 2014. For example, AT&T announced that its Domain 2.0 initiative will use SDN and NFV technologies and architectural approaches to simplify and scale its network. ONF will help these operators by enabling NFV with SDN and OpenFlow.
The vendor landscape will change. This year AT&T issued the first major RFQ specifically calling for SDN support, including demands for the separation of hardware and software. The carrier went so far as to note that delivering SDN and NFV "will require some of AT&T's current providers, but also will require some new providers with different skills and capabilities." That smells like opportunity -- at least for some.
New SDN-focused vendors will be key to the delivery of separate, interoperable hardware and software components. Just look at all the new startup companies, including not just software but even chips. ONF will continue to help build an ecosystem that encourages both innovation by the incumbents and the formation of new companies focused on network transformation.