This article is part of our Essential Guide: A Guide to Software Defined Networks

SDN adoption plans still stalling in Europe

TechTarget and Computer Weekly surveys find that less than 10% of organisations looking to implement software defined networking (SDN)

Software defined networking (SDN) may be the talk of Silicon Valley, but very few businesses are looking to deploy the technology on this side of the Atlantic.

The annual IT priorities survey from TechTarget and Computer Weekly showed just 9.2% of the European respondents were planning on implementing SDN during 2013, with the majority focusing their networking budgets elsewhere.

Instead, they were looking to invest into network management (35%), mobile device management for bring your own device (31%) and remote access/branch office connectivity (28%).

SDN is a massive focus of networking companies across the globe right now. Millions of dollars is going into research and development of the technology that will enable network controls to be brought into single management, rather than spread over several hardware consoles.

There have also been a number of high-profile acquisitions by companies as large as VMware and Brocade, a strong commitment to the technology.

Even if the network professionals fight SDN - or hide their heads in the sand - it will still be there

Clive Longbottom, founder, Quocirca

However, as our research shows, this has yet to translate to the marketplace in terms of sales.

“SDN is still at an early stage and it has not as yet been well messaged by the suppliers,” said Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst firm Quocirca. “They seem to like the idea, but haven’t got across to their target audience what SDN can do for them.”

He also claimed there was an “in-built fear” about standardising technology from networking administrators.

“If a network professional does start to look at SDN, it takes them well out of their comfort zone,” added Longbottom. “At the moment, if there is a network problem, the network professional gets to be the hero of the hour, using strange incantations, tools and even a soldering iron every now and again in order to get things going again. If everything is abstracted from the network equipment to software being run on a standard server, then this is IT – it is not networking. 

“It is not so long ago that the network professional saw the telephony team absorbed into the network team as telephony moved from a complex TDM system to being VoIP. Now, the network professional can see how they could be absorbed into the main IT group, with networking becoming just a physical layer with little domain skills required.”

Suppliers need to show networking managers the business benefits, rather than the technological elements, to show there is a place for everyone as well as an improvement to operations.

“They need to make sure that the network professional is included in the promise – that by abstracting the network functionality from the physical layer, a more complete platform can be implemented that is far more flexible and dynamic in how it will support the business but also to make sure that this still requires network skills, such as the use of priority routing, of good network design,” Longbottom said. 

“Ensuring that the new network is fit for purpose, can deal with massive amounts of mixed data and can respond to the business needs still needs network skills – it’s just that these skills need to move from being focused on the network box to the network control and management plane – and this will become software-based.”

As Longbottom concluded though, the investment from suppliers into SDN is big and means this technology will become part of a company’s infrastructure eventually.  

“With all the main network suppliers bought in to it, all new equipment will have some form of SDN built in to it and will have management systems that are predicated on SDN,” he said.

“So, even if the network professionals fight SDN – or hide their heads in the sand – it will still be there. Far better to gen up on it as fast as possible and be able to advise on its best use and possibilities, rather than try and pretend it isn’t there.”

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