Software-Defined Networking Set To Explode

Latest forecast sees 89 percent compound growth leading to $8 billion market by 2018.

IDC is the latest research firm to forecast explosive growth for the emerging sofware-defined networking (SDN) technologies in the enterprise.

It yesterday hawked a new report that forecasts the SDN market will see a "robust" compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 89 percent culminating in an $8 billion market by 2018.

Definitions of SDN vary widely, as do market predictions, but it's clear the new technology is primed for rapid enterprise adoption.

IDC defines SDN as: "an innovative architectural model that is capable of delivering automated provisioning, network virtualization, and network programmability to datacenter and enterprise networks."

The volunteer-sourced Wikipedia site defines it as "an approach to computer networking that allows network administrators to manage network services through abstraction of lower level functionality . . . by decoupling the system that makes decisions about where traffic is sent (the control plane) from the underlying systems that forward traffic to the selected destination (the data plane)."

In addition to a concise definition, IDC provided the elusive use cases that industry experts have long said are needed to kickstart the new technology. Even though the research firm noted that "enterprises are largely still testing the waters," it identified several near-term use cases: Web scaling for hosting/public cloud providers; private/hybrid cloud deployments; network programmability/customization; and security applications. The latter is exemplified by a recent announcement from start-up GaurdiCore Ltd. that it's coming out with a honeypot-based security solution based on SDN techniques to detect and eliminate attacks that have penetrated SDN networks.

IDC said several industry factors have converged to put SDN in a position to drive networking innovation:

  • Growth of cloud applications and services across enterprise and cloud providers.
  • Focus on converged infrastructures (compute/storage/network) and on the software-defined datacenter.
  • Lessons learned regarding the benefits and best practices of server virtualization have become apparent.
  • Increased demand for network flexibility to support mission-critical technologies based on 3rd Platform technologies, particularly cloud, mobility, Big Data, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

IDC defines the 3rd Platform as: "the convergence of multiple disruptive trends into a new IT paradigm of connectivity and data exchange." Wikipedia says it's "technologies becoming commonly available early in the second decade of the 21st century."

The Framingham, Mass.-based research firm also said, "With SDN's growing traction in the datacenter for cloud deployments, enterprise IT is beginning to see the value in potentially extending SDN to the WAN and into the campus to meet the demand for more agile approaches to network architecture, provisioning, and operations." That move to the WAN is illustrated by start-ups such as CloudGenix Inc. and recent product announcements by companies such as Silver Peak Inc., coming out with a new WAN fabric.

While market forecasts probably allow for little in the way of apples-to-apples comparisons, IDC's new estimate lies somewhat in the middle of wide spectrum. For example, Transparency Market Research reportedly forecast a $3.52 billion market by 2018. Infonetics Research has projected a datacenter and enterprise SDN market of $3.2 billion by 2017. SDNCentral, meanwhile, sees a $35 billion SDN market by 2018.

Taken as a whole -- along with research surveys like these and this -- the various market forecasts indicate SDN will move past the hype cycle to commonplace real-world implementations.

"SDN is taking center stage among innovative approaches to some of the networking challenges brought about by the rise of the 3rd Platform, particularly virtualization and cloud computing," said IDC's Rohit Mehra. "With SDN's growing traction in the datacenter for cloud deployments, enterprise IT is beginning to see the value in potentially extending SDN to the WAN and into the campus to meet the demand for more agile approaches to network architecture, provisioning, and operations."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for 1105 Media.

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