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Are You Ready for SDN’s Rocket Ride?

Software everything driving data center networking

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Get ready for a rush of superlatives concerning software defined networking (SDN). The networking architecture of tomorrow has begun a rocket-like ascent, according to new data from research firm IDC.

Projecting that SDN will experience a "robust" compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 89 percent en route to an $8 billion market by 2018, IDC virtually gushed that, “Software defined networking is an innovative architectural model that is capable of delivering automated provisioning, network virtualization, and network programmability to datacenter and enterprise networks.”

According to Brad Casemore, IDC Research Director, Datacenter Networks, “The 2014 through 2016 period will be a significant launch point for SDN in the enterprise, with significant growth opportunities for both enterprise focused

SDN infrastructure and cloud service providers."

We recently commented in this space that SDN is one area that enterprises and service providers can agree on. Stu Benington at TelecomTechNews explains why:

“An open SDN environment has huge potential for both users and operators. It can drive innovation at an unprecedented pace by enabling the rapid and easy introduction of new functions and applications written by network vendors, third-party developers, and even the operators themselves.”

But it’s not just large enterprises and service providers who stand to benefit. “SDN may not be on midsize IT professionals' minds today, but it will be in the next few years,” says MidSize Insider. “It is an affordable and flexible solution, and those characteristics are already enticing vendors to innovate in solutions that are targeted to deliver value to midsize businesses.”

Are we on the up-ramp of Gartner’s hype cycle? No doubt, to some degree.” Software-defined everything now is coming into play: servers, networking, storage and now data centers,” observes eWeek. “This is merely a marketing term, but it also is indicative of the clear trend toward centralized control in new-generation data centers.”

Along with the hype comes some predictable territory marking by vendors looking to establish a proprietary edge.

“VMware is apparently fed up with Cisco talking trash about its NSX software-defined networking technology. So now it's responding with some rhetoric of its own,” CRN recently reported. “VMware is especially peeved that Cisco salespeople have been telling VCE customers that NSX doesn't run well on Vblocks,” the publication quoted unnamed sources.

Market leaders who achieved prominence through proprietary advantage often seem to act unseemly in the face of challenges from open standards, or even seek to coopt the open movement to continue their advantage. With Gartner recently urging that network designers establish "a line in the sand" to ensure new investments include SDN capability, the stakes are high to establish a foothold in this emerging market.

It’s debatable whether either enterprises or service providers will go along with efforts to vendor-centric control mechanisms, when they stand to gain greater flexibility and agility from innovative open and standards-based technologies and solutions.

Why does open matter is a question that Kelly Herrell, Brocade VP and GM of Software Networking, addressed in a recent Light Reading column. “The answer is that open is an environmental description, not a specific statement of value,” Herrell wrote. An open environment is a better environment, he added, and an environment of freedom is a better construct.

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