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Enterprise SDN use lags service providers'

Network's importance to the business is one factor, Cisco incumbency impact another

By , Network World
February 12, 2014 03:51 PM ET

Network World - Enterprise adoption of SDNs is lagging that of service providers due to several factors, primarily the criticality of the network itself.
To service providers, the network is the business. To enterprises, the network enables or supports its core business.

That was abundantly clear at last week’s OpenDaylight Summit, where all of the non-vendor and non-developer presenters were service providers. OpenDaylight is an open source SDN framework developed by 154 contributors, including major vendors, under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

+MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: Understanding the differences between Software Defined Networking, network virtualization and Network Functions Virtualization +

SDNs and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), the method of virtualizing service provider network services, are considered key to enabling service providers to quickly create and provision new revenue generating services. The services are the lifeblood of the service provider’s business.

Conversely, the lifeblood of the business of most enterprises is manufacturing a product or offering a service to sell. The network and its applications support the product or service creation, but is not the sellable product or service in and of itself.

Moreover, cloud computing is also driving SDN and NFV adoption in the service provider realm. Providers are employing the technologies to virtualize and elasticize their networks to support the cloud computing phenomenon, whereby they offer IT services to enterprises looking to offload their dedicated compute infrastructures.

Enterprises are also largely dependent on a single vendor for their network infrastructures: Cisco. With a dominant market share in enterprise switching and routing, Cisco is loath to disrupt that multibillion dollar installed base with advances like SDN. Similarly, enterprises have invested heavily in infrastructure and training, and grown accustomed to doing things the Cisco way for decades.
Indeed, while most in the industry consider Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure fabric to be the company’s response to SDNs, Cisco asserts that the hardware-laden strategy is not SDN at all.

The numbers bear out the mismatch in SDN adoption between enterprises and service providers. Sales of software-defined networking products for live service provider deployments are estimated to reach $15.6 billion by 2018, while those that have live deployment potential will reach $29.5 billion, according to ACG Research.

Enterprise and cloud/service provider data center “in use” SDNs are a fraction of that: $3.1 billion by 2017, according to Infonetics Research.

“Service providers are turning over their data centers a lot faster and pushing the envelope,” says Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research. "Enterprises are a little more cautious and have slower refresh cycles.”

“I think there are a smaller number of players that are more organized in the service provider world,” says Cliff Grossner, directing analyst for data center and cloud at Infonetics. “They’re much more highly focused on a select set of use cases. I don’t think they have the same focused environment in the enterprise side.”

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