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Casting the Spotlight on SDN Startups

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes

We have been told for 20 years or more that the realm of network hardware is transitioning to software, that boxes are getting smaller and that processes are becoming more automated. We have heard over and over that hardwired functionality is giving way to programmability and that other quality that always makes it sound like there is a little acrobat inside your switch or router – agility.

But, it turns out those inch-by-inch advances were just preliminary to the big change the hardware world is about to undergo courtesy of software-defined networking (SDN). SDN is at the center of what many people in the networking sector are calling the biggest transformation to happen in their world since the 1980s.

It is no wonder then that everyone wants to get to know the rapidly growing number of mostly very young companies that are driving the SDN trend. As a concept, SDN is just a few years old. As a market, it is less than a year old. However, with the potential to unshackle network resources from hardware boxes, SDN could not only radically change networking, but also shift the balance of power among the companies that have come to dominate the sector.

The spotlight is suddenly on a dozen or so small companies (though some say the number is closer to 20 or higher), most of which have started up within the last one to three years. They are quickly working to hone their SDN innovations and, at the same time, are trying to develop the customer relationships and pursue the industry partnerships that will ensure their takes on SDN see daylight.

The latest Heavy Reading Insider, "SDN Startups: 10 Companies That Matter," takes a closer look at 10 of these innovative firms, breaks down their approaches to SDN, assesses the growing industry buzz around them and – because we're in a playful mood – assigns each company with a "Hot & Heavy" score that reflects just how much technology, market and M&A sizzle they are generating in the young SDN sector.

Our most red-hot ratings go to the companies that have made the most progress in developing their technology and cementing early business relationships, as well as those that have their sector buzzing about how quickly they could be acquired. A merely lukewarm rating is not a death sentence – more than anything, it suggests that the company is so new it just hasn't generated much chatter yet.

The best thing about our "Hot & Heavy" scoring system is that everything could change tomorrow. That is how quickly the SDN market is moving. The companies creating a little buzz today could be hot commodities tomorrow, and the startups that look like obvious winners today could become just a cog in a bigger corporate machine tomorrow. One way or another, the SDN transformation is likely not something that will take the next 20 years to develop. This time, the change is real, and it's coming quickly.

— Dan O'Shea, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider

SDN Startups: 10 Companies That Matter, a 14-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.

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12/5/2012 | 5:18:19 PM
re: Casting the Spotlight on SDN Startups

Dear Phil,

Just wanted to make a comment concerning your statement that the SDN concept is just few years old. There is a false perception in the industry that SDN as a concept started with the OpenFlow project at Stanford. This is incorrect.

Computer scientists from Columbia Univ., AT&T Labs and IEEE pioneered and created the concept of separation of software control from  forwarding hardware  long time ago. It was called then Open Programmable Networking and it was debated and presented in several IEEE sessions. For your record I have attached the summary of proceedings for the IEEE Opensig session in Toronto in 1998 written by prof. Andrew Campbell, former at Columbia Univ. now at Dartmouth. The keynote address is dedicated to this very specific concept.


The concept of creating a software control fabric agnostic of the underlying hardware infrastructure is not new. SDN is nothing else than a newer description of 15+ years old concepts pionered in IEEE, long time before OpenFlow project.

Best regards,

Nelu Mihai


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