Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Saturday, August 15, 2020
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SDN Is Making Inroads In Datacenters 

Software-defined networking is coming to the datacenter despite lingering concerns about the maturity of the technology, according to an upbeat forecast that predicts SDN deployments will begin in 2015.

Infonetics Research forecasts that 87 percent of North American-based enterprises surveyed intend to deploy SDN in their datacenters and campus LANs by 2016. "The leaders in the SDN market serving the enterprise will be solidified during the next two years as lab trials give way to live production deployments in 2015 and significant growth by 2016," predicted Cliff Grossner, datacenter and SDN analyst at the market research firm.

Despite the bullish predictions, the survey acknowledges lingering concerns about the maturity of SDN technology along with the need to make a business case for investing in SDN. "Vendors need to work with their lead enterprise customers to complete lab trials and provide public demonstrations of success," Grossner stressed in releasing the survey.

The Infonetics report echoes other market surveys that forecast substantial growth for the SDN market through 2016 while raising concerns about the efficacy of a technology that emerged from university laboratories in 2005. Another knock on the technology, previous surveys have found, is that the promise of reducing network complexity has yet to be achieved.

That's not to say SDN is without benefits, SDN expert Sanjay Castelino noted in a 2013 column. "SDN is great for highly dynamic computing environments, and excels at solving problems within fixed datacenters."

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Hence, it is likely that the first major rollout of SDN technology could be in datacenters, where huge investments are being made in servers and Ethernet switching equipment, the Infonetics survey noted. It found that 45 percent of respondents expect SDN to be in live production in datacenters in 2015. That figure nearly doubles to 87 percent of respondents in 2016.

The business case for deploying SDN varied from improving management capabilities and boosting application performance. The survey also found that deployment plans for LAN SDN were nearly identical to expected datacenter rollouts.

Along with technological maturity, barriers to SDN deployment included concerns about potential network interruptions and lack of interoperability with existing networking equipment, especially physical switches. Infonetics reported that 17 percent of respondents' datacenter Ethernet switch ports are on bare metal switches. Of those, only 21 percent are used for SDN.

The survey also found that SDN vendors have their work cut out for them convincing enterprises that SDN can serve as a key component of future hybrid cloud architectures. The survey found that using SDN for "enabling hybrid cloud" was "dead last" on the list of datacenter technology drivers.

Infonetics said it surveyed 101 network equipment purchasing executives at medium and large enterprises that are either implementing SDN in datacenters or expect to evaluate SDN technology by the end of 2015.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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