Next year will mark software-defined networking's move from a niche category to one that delivers real business value. SDN will reach new levels of deployment as organizations embrace the technology and concepts to create agility in their cloud and data center environments.
However, there is still much that needs to be resolved, and there will be continued battles in the industry about how to best deliver SDN to meet the needs of businesses.
I predict we'll see the following SDN developments in 2015:
VMware has publicly stated it has a $100 million run rate business on its NSX portfolio. This is a great achievement, but this figure is still small compared to the $10-billion plus networking market in the data center environment.
In the upcoming year, we will see SDN enjoy widespread adoption. One reason is that much of the application deployment stack has already been automated. The network layer is an outlier in many organizations. SDN enables automation and orchestration to remove the repetitive nature of deploying applications in the data center.
[For another perspective, see SDN Developments In 2015.]
SDN can also make available the analytics trapped inside of the network to reduce troubleshooting times from days or weeks to minutes and seconds.
To date, numerous companies have experimented with full automation and orchestration in test environments. Many more have deployments of a significant size, including Nike, AT&T, and Hess.
With the endorsement by these early adopters, I believe many other forward-looking businesses will follow suit. However, instead of a "rip and replace" approach, organizations will look for ways to incorporate networking automation into their current infrastructure.
I expect we will see some very creative uses of SDN come to the fore in 2015 in many industries. For example:
-- Video-gaming companies will rely on automated networks to spin up cloud instances and support tremendous volumes of user traffic driven by the rise of online gaming with next-generation consoles.
-- Big data-driven companies, such as those in oil and gas, as well as banks, will find SDN a critical component of their data center infrastructure. The energy and financial services industries, often composed of remote branch offices, will also turn to automation for increased security, maximized efficiency, and reduced cost.
-- Automation also holds the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, which is already in rapid transformation due to the accelerated deployment of mobile devices and new technologies to deliver services, store data, and monitor patients.
Even as demand for SDN products grow, market consolidation is inevitable. We've seen this consolidation happen before, such as the early days of voice over IP, when there were 30 or more call-control companies.
There are many startups in the SDN space, but most will meet their demise. I was given this piece of advice long ago, and it still holds true today: "Just because a problem is hard to solve, and you solve it well, doesn't mean anyone is interested in paying you for it."
Large incumbents have rolled out their own SDN products and have the considerable advantage of deep customer ties over the upstarts.
At the same time, the significant acquisitions to be made in this space have already happened. Any future acquisitions will be for talent, not continuation of product.
As SDN deployments rise, security capabilities will become more important. SDN can help provide critical context about the state of the network and enable uniformity of security services across physical and virtual layers.
Furthermore, it will become enormously important to integrate security components into orchestration and policy engines to ensure applications and workloads are consistently protected.
SDN is the future of networking. In fact, at some point, we won't even talk about SDN. It will just be networking.
We will see an increasing number of companies and organizations across a range of industries turn to the technology in 2015 to give them a business edge. We will also see increased investment in automation, orchestration, and network analytics.
Truly, 2015 won't be the end of the SDN hype, but it will be the start of a maturing market.
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