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Prediction time: 2013 will not be the year of SDN

In 2013, software-defined networking will see more development but will not reach mainstream status, while Cisco makes a big acquisition and Microsoft begins its resurgence.

Well, it’s hard to believe but the year is almost up and there are only a mere couple of weeks until we ring in the New Year. So that makes it prediction time for us industry analysts and I’d like to share mine with you. So, drum roll please…

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  • 2013 will not be the year of Software Defined Networks. The media hype around SDNs is at an all-time high. However, contrary to some of the predictions I’ve seen, 2013 will not be the year of the SDN as most enterprise network managers are trying to figure out what exactly SDNs are and how they can leverage them. The notion that a technology with such a big architectural difference from the status quo could have rapid uptake is as ridiculous as thinking that Mark Sanchez might actually make a good QB one day. I predict that 2013 will be the year of SDN research, and we’ll start to see some best practices developed and some case studies created.
  • The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) will become part of SDN architecture. I’ve never really liked the term "software" defined networks because software shouldn’t define anything. Software can reconfigure the network, but applications should define it. If that’s the case, what network device has the most knowledge of applications? The ADC does and that’s why the ADC either needs to pass along application information to the controller or actually take on controller functionality. Either way, we’ll see market leader F5 and its band of competitors become relevant to SDNs.
  • Uniquely mobile applications will become a reality in the enterprise. Today, the concept of a "mobile" application is to create a small form factor version of a desktop application. While that’s kind of cool, these are really "mini" applications, not necessarily mobile applications. In 2013, we’ll start to see more applications that take advantage of location information, GPS functionality and other things that are unique to mobile devices. There are numerous examples of uniquely "mobile" applications in the consumer space, but they are few and far between in the enterprise space. Look for more uniquely mobile enterprise applications in 2013.
  • Cisco makes an acquisition. This isn’t really a prediction because Cisco is the ultimate tech shopaholic. What I will predict, though, is that in 2013 Cisco will make a big acquisition, somewhere in the multi-billion dollar range. I think they should buy Citrix, but who knows? What I do believe is we’ll see something big.
  • Microsoft rebounds. It seems that Microsoft has been a media punching bag over the past few years and, in many ways, it’s well deserved. The company had become old and slow and relied too much on its install base for success. Despite that, though, I think between a combination of Windows 8, Hyper-V and Lync, the company has an excellent shot at having a year where it re-establishes itself as a major IT force.
  • The network finally becomes a platform. Cisco, and to a lesser extent the new seven dwarves, have been talking about this concept for years. Extreme might have been the first when it rolled out its highly programmable XOS years ago. The problem was that the network didn’t need to be a platform as computing was WinTel-centric. Oh, how things have changed. Mobility, cloud computing and the Internet of things are all network-centric compute models raising the value of the network. This transition should help Cisco stretch its lead over the struggling Dell and HP as well as gain some mindshare as a legitimate IT vendor.
  • The Rise of the Machines. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications has had niche use cases for the past decade or so. I do believe, though, that in 2013 we’ll see the use cases of M2M grow in an effort to "build a smarter planet" or connect the "Internet of Everything." In 2013, we’ll see the rise of M2M outside of verticals other than oil and gas, medical and other traditional markets.
  • Digital signage gets a facelift. Digital signs are boring, meant for static content and only used for advertising, right? Well, nothing could be further from the truth. New digital signs are highly interactive. They can be used to deliver custom content that changes with the user. They can transfer information to handheld devices and should now be considered engagement points for employees (internal use) or customers (external). Expect to see more solutions directed towards a wide variety of verticals in 2013.

With all the market transitions going on right now, I certainly expect 2013 to be an exciting year of change for IT. Despite a weak macro, organizations do need to find a way of differentiating themselves, and it’s being led by technology.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to an exciting 2013!

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