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SDN's Progress Is Worth Debating

Dan O'Shea
8/4/2014
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Inconclusive survey results are always good fodder for a lively debate, and that's the case with the findings of an SDN Progress Report just issued by Juniper Networks.

Online interviews with 400 IT decision-makers in the US found that 52.5% of those surveyed have plans to adopt SDN, while the other 47.5% have no plans to adopt SDN. (See US Firms Split on SDN: Juniper Survey .)

The results are not split exactly down the middle: By a small margin, more companies said they are planning to deploy SDN. But the Negative Nancy in me is drawn more to what I feel is a pretty high percentage of companies that have no SDN plans at all.

As much as we all talk about SDN and its benefits, and have tried to address the possible hurdle to adoption, I imagined the number of companies with deployment plans versus those with none would be more like 60%/40% at the very least by now.

Yet, I realize the other argument here: "You’re a fool, Dan," some of you are thinking. "If there is something surprise here, it is how quickly SDN has come a very long way to become firmly entrenched is the minds and network blueprints of some many companies. If 52.5% of the market wants something, it absolutely justifies the moves of vendors that were quick to embrace SDN and invest in it."

"And also, Negative Nancy," you're probably still thinking, "if 47.5% of those surveyed do not have SDN adoption plans, it does not mean that they will never have SDN adoption plans. The number of those planning to adopt only will continue to increase."


Want to know more about SDN? Check out our dedicated SDN content channel here on Light Reading.


Your internal dialogue isn't necessarily wrong, but the survey results are also very clear about the ongoing challenges for SDN adoption, something we have debated in depth in recent months. (See 3 Barriers to SDN Adoption and SDN Faces a Human Hurdle .)

So how do you interpret these survey results? Are you a Negative Nancy, or a -- wait for it -- Positive Paulina? Do these survey results suggest SDN's progress is right about where it should be, or a little wanting?

Let us know on the comment board below.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/8/2014 | 7:20:18 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
TomNolle - "... the sum of the definitions equals or exceeds the total of all possibilities!"

Well said. It's kind of like what happened to organic food. 
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/8/2014 | 7:04:54 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
I'm not worried as much about multiplicity as I am when the sum of the definitions equals or exceeds the total of all possibilities!  If everything is SDN then nothing is.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/8/2014 | 6:46:42 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
Multiple definitions of SDN don't freak me out -- they're potentially useful. The Cisco approach is intriguing. 
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/6/2014 | 3:16:12 PM
Re: Look at the question
I also think it's meaningful to ask folks how they plan to use SDN. As Jack Waters of Level 3 pointed out in the piece I wrote this week ( shameless promotion), there is a part of SDN that doesn't interest him at all right now, but another part in which he is definitely interested. 

Unless you know how the person answering the survey is definining "SDN" at the moment, it's hard to know what they are accepting or rejecting. 

This is another way of saying I think what both Tom and Dennis have said makes sense to me. 
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 2:02:34 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
Right on both counts, Mitch.  With SDN there's also the fact that the definition of what "SDN" is varies considerably, and covers nearly everything from current switches/routers with a new high-level API set (Cisco's approach) to a complete elimination of adaptive device discovery as the basis for route generation (the OpenFlow central purist model).  You could be committed to SDN, and even a user of it, under at least one definition!  So maybe those who say they are not are the ones making a mistake.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/6/2014 | 1:54:01 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
TomNolle - "The problem I've run into with this kind of survey is that fully a third of those who are surveyed will say "Yes" to any question about their planned use of a well-publicized technology. "

Good point. Nobody wants to admit to being behind on the latest hot technology. 

"I remember years ago a survey done by a major IT rag about GigE adoption; a third of users said they had it and there were no commercial products at the time."

I expect there are jobs ads out there right now looking for people with five or more years of NFV experience. 

 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 12:41:24 PM
Look at the question
I don't have direct access to the actual survey that Juniper conducted, but the wording as presented in the press release suggests a very broad and generic question -- something like, "Does your company plan to adopt SDN?" There might be more insight here if respondents were asked for specifics about these plans. When we did this for a Heavy Reading survey on carrier SDN a few months ago, we got some good visibility into actual timing for SDN deployment. Our survey focused exclusively on network operators, as opposed to a generic "IT decision makers" group. And the likely deployment of SDN among carriers is much higher than 50%. We're getting set to do a follow-up survey in the next few weeks. Our clients are keenly interested to know where this is going.
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 10:33:41 AM
Re: I'm surprised....
A useful measure of how meaningful a survey can be is what I call "buyer literacy".  A buyer is literate if they understand the value proposition needed to induce a purchase and can establish whether a specific product offering can meet that value proposition.  Generally, my research has suggested that you need a buyer literacy rate of about 33% to have an effective natural market.  Right now, SDN is running about half that.
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
8/6/2014 | 10:24:35 AM
Re: I'm surprised....
You have a good point there. There are a lot of factors that can go into why people answer one way and not the other, as far as how they want to be perceived (or think their companies want to be perceived), or how they don't want to be perceived. I don't think this survey is definitive, but it is fun to discuss.
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/4/2014 | 3:26:04 PM
Re: I'm surprised....
The problem I've run into with this kind of survey is that fully a third of those who are surveyed will say "Yes" to any question about their planned use of a well-publicized technology.  I remember years ago a survey done by a major IT rag about GigE adoption; a third of users said they had it and there were no commercial products at the time.
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