Cisco takes early lead in SDN thought leadership

State of the Network

Everyone is vying to become the leader is the world of Software Defined Networking, but according to Network World’s 2014 survey of nearly 300 IT execs, the race is extremely wide open.

While it’s clearly early in the SDN adoption cycle, a full 30% of respondents to the 2014 State of the Network survey said they had deployed at least some form of SDN – 14% in the data center, 10% in the WAN and 6% in both. Nearly half of respondents said they intend to implement SDN within three years.

But which SDN vendor will they go with?

That remains very much up in the air. When asked to identify SDN thought leaders, Cisco came out on top with 22%, followed by Juniper at 12% and HP at 11%. Respondents also mentioned Nicira (8%), which was bought by VMware, as well as VMware itself (6%), for a total of 14% for the Nicira/VMware SDN offering.

But nearly two-thirds of respondents said there was no clear SDN leader, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for established companies to solidify their standing or for fresh, new players to emerge. (Watch a slideshow version of this story.)

When asked about their SDN plans over the next three years, 24% said they intend to implement SDN in both data center and WAN, 12% said data center only and 10% said WAN only. That means more than half of respondents did not have a clear SDN game plan.

So, what are the perceived benefits of SDN?

The No. 1 answer was increased network flexibility (38%), followed by simplified network operations and management (29%), faster network service configuration and delivery (26%), improved ability to automate network functions (24%) and increased customization of the network (24%.)

Cost cutting is key

In this year’s survey, cost cutting in all its various manifestations emerged as Job One for IT execs, replacing IT-business alignment, which was the top overall objective of organizations last year.

In 2012, improving the IT-business connection was a top priority for 51% of respondents. That dropped to 39% in the latest survey. One explanation could be that companies are now more comfortable with the level of IT-business alignment and now these organizations are focusing on other challenges.

And cost cutting is certainly one of those. Fifty-four percent of respondents said decreasing operational costs is the company’s No. 1 business-related objective, while 55% said that lowering IT operating costs through server consolidation and overall IT simplification was their top technology priority.

Other business priorities remained pretty much unchanged from 2012, with 51% citing increasing revenue as a business priority, 46% listing better business process efficiencies, and 44% pointing to increasing worker productivity.

In terms of technology-related priorities, improving security and risk management sits at 51%, mobility/BYOD is a top priority for 40% of respondents, as is cloud computing at 40%, up from 33% last year.

For large enterprises, Big Data makes it onto the list at 31%, while, not surprisingly, Big Data is a top priority for only 14% of SMBs.

Other key findings:

  • At larger companies, IT is more involved in spurring innovation (38%), compared to SMBs (18%).
  • Nearly half of respondents said next-gen firewalls were on their radar, following closely by BYOD programs and data loss prevention.
  • On the other hand, nearly half said that securing access to social media was a low priority.
  • The percentage of respondents who said their budgets were increasing rose from 20% to 28%, while the number facing cuts dipped from 14% to 12%. Nearly half of respondents said their budgets were flat.
  • Headcount also showed improvement, with 23% of respondents anticipating an increase in headcount over the next 12 months, with only 9% expecting cutbacks.
  • Longer term, 32% of respondents said they expected an increase in IT headcount over the next one to three years, with 12% anticipating cuts. Those expecting increases estimated that headcounts would rise by an average of 17% over that period.

Network World’s 2014 State of the Network survey was conducted online and reflects the responses of 282 IT executives. Respondents are employed in organizations with an average of $6.6 billion in annual revenue, an annual IT budget of $221 million and an average of 16,067 employees.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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