Light Reading

You Either Love SDN, or You Really Don't

Mitch Wagner

SDN is gaining popularity fast, but not everyone has fallen for the new networking nirvana.

SDN, video, and VoIP are surprisingly popular among enterprise IT folks, says Brad Reinboldt, product marketing manager for Network Instruments LLC . (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

Network Instruments surveyed 241 IT executives in Global 2000 companies worldwide. Of these, some 22% expect to deploy SDN by the end of 2014, and about a third by the end of next year. "The first time SDN really came into play was late 2009. In four short years, the technology went from being essentially no place to 22% of enterprises. That's an extreme rapidity of deployment," Reinboldt says.

The reason for deploying was also surprising. "Typically, new technologies are driven by cost reductions and ROI improvements," Reinboldt says. Those factors are important for SDN, but enterprises are also interested in the agility that SDN can bring. SDN enables cloud deployment and allows enterprises to host resources anywhere in the world. "SDN is serving as an enabler. It's the thing that will allow IT and business to move to the next plane," Reinboldt says.

On the other hand, much confusion still surrounds SDN. "People are still trying to figure it out," Reinboldt says. Some 37% of survey respondents said SDN is "undefined, like a road trip without a map." (See The Three Faces of SDN.)

And most enterprises are skeptical of SDN. More than half of network engineers, 53%, say they'll "ride out the hype" before deploying SDN. And nearly half of management, 47%, say they have no plans to deploy SDN.

Indeed, Network Instruments' own press release about the study emphasizes the uncertainty and skepticism over the adoption. Network Instruments is confused about SDN, just like everybody else.

In other survey findings:

  • Video and VoIP are gaining traction despite obstacles. "Enterprises are overcoming bandwidth demands and using videoconferencing," Reinboldt says.

  • Videoconferencing is seeing a 63% adoption rate, while unified communications is just over 70%, according to the study.

  • Network bandwidth is increasing: Fourteen percent of survey respondents have deployed 40G networks, while 9% have already upgraded to 100G.

    For more findings from Network Instruments study, check out this infographic: SDN: Turn On or Turn Off?

    — Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to

    Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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    Mitch Wagner
    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    5/12/2014 | 6:03:23 PM
    Re: Riding out the hype...
    The Gartner hype cycle? I'd say we're climbing toward the Peak of Inflated Expectations. We'll hit it late this year or early next. The expectations haven't yet gotten crazy enough to indicate we're near peak. 

    The Trough of Disillusionment comes next. That's a particularly sad place because so often the zealots can't tell the difference between the Trough of Disillusionment and the realization that the emperor has no clothes. 
    Mitch Wagner
    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    5/12/2014 | 5:58:03 PM
    Re: Not terribly surprising
    @mbushong - "People need to get past thinkin of SDN as the thing and more about it as the how. Deploying SDN is interesting but does nothing for the business by itself. Deploying SDN in support of a specific use case? Very different. But then SDN takes the supporting role, not the leading one."

    That's true of emerging technology in general, isn't it? Business need to avoid thinking of how they can use a particular technology and instead focus on what's the appropriate technology to solve business problems. 
    Joe Stanganelli
    Joe Stanganelli,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    5/12/2014 | 5:05:09 PM
    Re: Riding out the hype...
    All "overhyped" and "underhyped" refer to is how many articles the author has seen about the subject.
    Joe Stanganelli
    Joe Stanganelli,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    5/12/2014 | 5:04:02 PM
    Re: HLS
    @Mitch: Maybe, but they're vulnerable to phishing attacks.
    Mitch Wagner
    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    5/12/2014 | 5:01:34 PM
    Re: HLS
    I wonder if phablets improve pharmagility. 
    User Rank: Blogger
    5/12/2014 | 1:26:48 PM
    Riding out the hype...
    Speaking of which, exactly where are we in the SDN hype cycle? Just eight months ago, there was talk of it being "under-hyped"...
    User Rank: Moderator
    5/12/2014 | 10:07:20 AM
    Not terribly surprising
    People need to get past thinkin of SDN as the thing and more about it as the how. Deploying SDN is interesting but does nothing for the business by itself. Deploying SDN in support of a specific use case? Very different. But then SDN takes the supporting role, not the leading one.

    The reality is that the SDN use case has been made largely on overarching statements of either OpEx savings or dynamic control. With the former, until these models are better articulated and customer environments better instrumented, there will continue to be skepticism. On the latter, not everyone needs control. Control matters where you have a scale or rate of change that needs to be addressed.

    When vendors shift from general SDN talk to very specific use cases, we will see adoption in broader numbers. But even then, what is being done ought to trump how it is being done.

    Mike Bushong (@mbushong)

    Joe Stanganelli
    Joe Stanganelli,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    5/12/2014 | 8:56:29 AM
    It does seem to be gaining traction in the health and life sciences industry -- a sector that has HUGE data and bandwidth demands (particularly in genomics) -- based on what I saw at the Bio-IT World Conference in Boston a couple of weeks ago.

    Incidentally, here's a portmanteau I was mercilessly subjected to at a presentation at that conference: "pharmagility."
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