Potential-Packed Software-Defined Networking Not Without Challenges

A pair of new studies show that there’s plenty of upside to software-defined networking (SDN), but there are challenges and potential barriers as companies drive adoption.

In its new SDN Progress Report, Juniper Networks found that more than half of U.S. businesses surveyed (52.5 percent) plan to adopt SDN, while the other half (47.5 percent) say they still have no plans to implement the technology. Juniper polled 400 IT decision-makers (ITDMs).

Of those with plans to adopt SDN, three in four (74 percent) say they plan to do so in within the next year, with three in 10 (30 percent) indicating they plan to make the move in just one month.

Following cost (50 percent), ITDMs said difficulty integrating with existing systems (35 percent), security concerns (34 percent) and lack of skills from existing employees (28 percent) are the top challenges to adoption of SDN. Juniper said these perceived challenges may be attributable to the nearly half of respondents who indicated that they do not have plans to deploy SDN-enabled technology.

While divided on the short term, companies 77 percent of those surveyed believe most business networks will include SDN technology in the next five years.

“The networking industry is going through a fundamental technology change driven by the need to turn up customer-facing apps more quickly and to simplify network operations,” said Mike Marcellin, SVP of strategy and marketing for Juniper Networks. “This evolution to SDN will not be overnight, but we’re excited to see it happen and to partner with companies to help them realize their full SDN potential.”

Meantime, Infonetics Research is even more bullish on SDN, saying in a new report that 87 percent of corporate, private-network businesses in North America plan to have software-defined networking live in their data centers by 2016.

“Software-defined networking spells opportunity for existing and new vendors, and the time to act is now,” said Cliff Grossner, directing analyst for data center, cloud and SDN at Infonetics. “The leaders in the SDN market serving the enterprise will be solidified during the next two years as lab trials give way to live production deployments in 2015 and significant growth by 2016. The timelines for businesses moving from lab trials to live production for the data center and LAN are almost identical.”

A majority of respondents in Infonetics’ survey said they are currently conducting data center SDN lab trials or will do so this year; 45 percent are planning to have SDN in live production in the data center in 2015, growing to 87 percent in 2016. Many of the survey-takers are expanding the number of data-center sites and LAN sites they operate over the next two years and are investing significant capital on servers and LAN Ethernet switching equipment.

Top drivers for deploying SDN, according to the survey, are improving management capabilities and improving application performance. Potential network interruptions and interoperability with existing network equipment were named as the leading barriers. Interestingly, enabling hybrid cloud was dead last on the list of drivers, a sign that SDN vendors have work to do in educating enterprises that SDN can be an important enabler of hybrid cloud architectures, Infonetics noted.

“There’s still some work to do on the part of SDN vendors,” Grossner added. “Expectations for SDN are clear, but there are still serious concerns about the maturity of the technology and the business case. Vendors need to work with their lead enterprise customers to complete lab trials and provide public demonstrations of success.”

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