Enterprises want SDN even if they aren’t sure what it is

Most network administrators at enterprises in North America are talking about software-defined networking. Most think they have a pretty good handle on it. But not every one of them knows what SDN actually is, even though the term has been thrown around for three years or more. Far from it.
Most network admins know what they want to do with SDN, which virtualizes physical networking gear so administrators can tweak their networks without unplugging boxes and moving cables. Admins want to deploy applications and services more quickly. Many also want to use it to cut down on mistakes and get new customers running as soon as possible. But problems loom. Admins expect SDN to cost a lot of money and possibly lead to security concerns. And they don’t think their colleagues know about SDN in the first place.
Such are the contradictions that resulted from a February and March survey of 237 enterprise network decision makers, sponsored by the Swedish SDN company Tail-f Systems. The results point to the lack of real knowledge about what SDN is and how to implement it. There’s still no shortage of hype, though, and with vendors using different definitions and trying to drive their own standards, it’s hard for everyone to agree on common terms.
So far, 65 percent of survey respondents said their companies are in SDN trials, have implemented SDN or are implementing it now. That number will keep going up. A February GigaOM Research report (subscription required) forecasted the global SDN market will swell from $320 million in 2014 to $2.45 billion in 2018. But how soon the hype will go away and genuine understanding will replace it is anyone’s guess.