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Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Software-Defined Networks Gaining Traction Among Carriers

Infonetics survey shows global telecom carriers are intrigued by SDNs and taking initial steps to deploy the technology.

SDN isn’t just a buzzword anymore. It’s a real-world technology that’s proving itself more and more with each passing day. But who’s doing the proving, and to what end?

Market researcher Infonetics Research was curious about how many worldwide telecom carriers were interested in software-defined networks, and so its just-released "SDN and NFV Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey" delves into how carriers are setting up SDNs and network function virtualization (NFV) projects.

According to Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier networks at Infonetics, carriers at the 21 different wireless operators surveyed across the world are starting small with SDNs. They’re working with small segments of their networks--what Howard calls “contained domains”--to determine if and how SDNs can benefit them.

When asked about their top applications for NFV, the study participants cited content delivery networks, IP multimedia subsystems and virtual routers as the top three.

Howard doesn’t believe we’ll see major swaths of carriers’ networks controlled by SDNs anytime soon, let alone the whole thing, but the first bricks are certainly being laid. According to the survey, virtually all major operators are either looking into SDNs right now or will do so in the next three years, and 86% of the operators surveyed plan to deploy SDN/NFV technology in their optical transport networks, once standards are finalized.

When I asked Howard if Infonetics surveyed other entities besides carriers, he replied that it had: “The SDN interest is strong in corporations that have data centers, and even others like hospitals, universities and schools to use SDNs to separate groups or departments--that is, giving each ‘tenant’ their own ‘slice’ of the network--or their own virtual networks on a single physical network.”

[Feeling overwhelmed by all the SDN products in the market? Check out our SDN Buyer's Guide.]

The market is still too young to see where most of the sales and uptake is taking place, but “we can today measure interest, activities, allocation of staff to investigate, test, trial," Howard said. And the majority of the current interest is coming from, predictably enough, data centers, which have “network administrative problems for which SDNs were originally invented to solve," he adds.

Infonetics’s survey notes that the top five network domains targeted for SDNs and NFVs in 2014 include “within data centers, between data centers, operations and management, content delivery networks (CDNs) and cloud services.”

I asked Howard whether Infonetics found that survey respondents named specific vendors of SDN/NFV technology as key influencers.

“For service providers, the answer is yes,” he replied. “In fact, the usual suspects include the telecom equipment vendors, data center equipment vendors, virtualization software companies and others, with the telecom equipment manufacturers named by 95% of the survey respondents as one of their SDN suppliers.”

Is your organization making any SDN plans? Is it testing SDN in small deployments? I'd like your input. Use the comments section to share your feedback.

Follow Serdar Yegulalp and BYTE on Twitter and Google+: - Twitter @syegulalp @BYTE - Google+ Serdar Yegulalp on Google+ View Full Bio
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