In a recent Techaisle depth-interview, the CIO of a Network Dependent (Techaisle’s proprietary Segmentation) Mid-Market business with 950 employees, 110 servers, 50 percent of servers virtualized, said, “Yes, I have heard about SDN. It’s a service where the architecture can be dynamically reconfigured or driven by a software personality layer as opposed to being hard-wired. Yes, we are planning to invest in it. Today the trend is towards intelligent networking. Software defined networking is something that can be used to automatically handle the traffic in the network. So, we can expect reduced costs from this type of a service. Brocade and Cisco are the two companies that have good solutions about these services.”
Although the awareness starts to fall rapidly for lower employee sized businesses Software Defined Networking (SDN) holds promise within the SMB and Mid-market business segments.
The IT Manager of a 70 employee size business with 4 servers using cloud, virtualization and managed services belonging to Network Increases Efficiency segment (Techaisle proprietary networking segmentation) said in another depth interview, “Yes, I have heard about SDN. I think it probably has an advantage of being much more flexible because of the different approaches that it has to dynamic network management. It has certain development tools that can be used to operate different network services. We, first of all need to investigate more about this technology and then see how well it fits in our infrastructure and only after we find enough information of it fitting the bill, should we implement it.”
Techaisle’s research finds that 3 percent of small businesses and 11 percent of mid-market businesses globally have heard about Software Defined Networks. In the US the awareness jumps to 19 percent among mid-market businesses. SMBs that have some knowledge about SDNs, exhibit enhanced interest to adopt them in next 12-18 months with the objective of reducing their network related CAPEXs and managing their growth in cloud, mobility, big data technology usages.
Techaisle’s market sizing estimates that the SMB market for SDN will be US$204 million in 2016 growing at CAGR of nearly 81 percent. The market could open up more once the awareness and use cases increase.
Software-defined networking (SDN) is a new approach to building computer networks that separates and abstracts the underlying networking elements thereby making the network more agile. SDN allows system administrators to quickly provision and program network connections on the fly instead of manually configuring policies. Administrators have programmable central control of network traffic without requiring physical access to the network’s hardware devices. Some even call this ‘virtualizing the network’, in the sense that each individual hardware switch may be part of multiple Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks and have its configuration and traffic management policies dynamically changed by the master network controller.
The Strides Made
Most of the large IT vendors have made very strong commitments to providing SDN solutions. Prominent among the larger IT vendors are:
- Avaya with its Application Development Network (ADN)
- Brocade with its Vyatta acquisition
- Cisco with its Open Network Environment (ONE) and Cariden acquisition and funding of Insiemi
- Dell with its Virtual Network Architecture (VNA)
- HP with its Virtual Application Networks (VAN)
- IBM with its Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE)
- Juniper with its Contrail Systems acquisition
- VMware with its Nicira acquisition
Then there is OpenFlow, closely associated with SDN, an industry consortium of about 70 members, much like the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit group that oversees development of the OpenFlow protocol. Both Google and Facebook have adopted OpenFlow (ONF) protocol within their data center operations. And most of the new switches from networking vendors like Arista, Brocade, Dell/Force10, Extreme, Huawei, HP, IBM, Juniper, NEC, and Pronto are OpenFlow compatible.
‘OpenDaylight’ Project which includes Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Red Hat, NEC and VMware, aims to provide an open-source software-defined-networking (SDN) controller, with vendor-agnostic interfaces thereby accelerating innovation around the SDN controller itself.
All of the above points to tremendous jostling for leadership roles and confusion in the market place. In spite of the confusion, SDN will continue to gain acceptance as enterprises will develop proof of concepts and the market itself will shake out the true leaders in the next 3-4 years.
The Promise for SMBs
SDN is ideally suited for the SMB segment with its promise of reducing complexity, costs and management along with easing implementation of cloud, mobility, social and big data connectivity.
Specifically within the mid-market segment, SDN will begin to pop-up in conversations among CIOs and IT Directors when they find their businesses faced with:
- Increased public and private Cloud adoption
- Network’s inability to provide flexibility required to support virtualization, cloud, and mobility
- Inefficient network and traffic management with the explosion of devices, worker locations and applications
- Deployment of ultra-low latency networks to effect real-time transactions especially for the financial services vertical and those working on big data analytics
Announcement from HP
However, it must be said, that SMBs will look for product solutions with embedded SDN. We are already starting to see some solutions for the SMB market segment along the same lines. A new BYOD solution bundle was announced at HP’s recent Global Partner Conference. The solution includes end-to-end management software, switches with integrated wired and wireless capabilities, and is extended with a software-defined security solution. Ever bullish on the SMB market, HP believes this is an easily deployable, complete solution for a small to medium sized-business, very cost-effective and that provides investment protection with free switch software upgrades for OpenFlow support. Not only does it mean lower capex, but also less maintenance and less complexity.
Indeed, there’s a viable play for SDN for SMBs. A perfect use case could include implementation of virtual routed network on hypervisors, a web-based unified management application for provisioning, monitoring and control of the entire distributed network.
Technology complexity is continuing to increase for SMBs. And Techaisle is finding that majority of SMBs are required to re-architect and re-configure their networks to make a move to cloud or virtualization. Most of these SMBs take external assistance either from an IT Consultant or their channel partner. Nevertheless, they all have one refrain that reconfiguration is extremely complex, time-consuming and resource intensive.
SDN is yet very complex even for the most cutting edge and aggressive technology adopter SMBs. It requires tools and structures that are still evolving. Managed services was introduced into the market several years ago but the RMM, PSA and other tools are still being refined so one should not expect the channels or the SMBs to jump onto SDN immediately.
There will be a lag between the enterprise and the SMB adopters. However, once products are available with SDN capabilities, SMBs will adopt SDN faster than enterprises. The SMBs that have virtualized their servers and storage will be the early adopters. Looking at potential savings SDN will a difficult opportunity to pass up on by the SMBs.