SDN still failing to spark interest in Europe

Research shows just 9% of companies across Europe are planning to implement software-defined networking in the next 12 months

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Europe: IT budgets bounce back from recession

Software-defined networking (SDN) is still failing to capture the imagination of European businesses, according to the latest research from TechTarget and Computer Weekly.

Our annual IT priorities survey for 2014 showed that just 9% of the IT departments we surveyed across the continent are planning on putting the technology into practice over the next 12 months – the same percentage that were looking to embrace the technology at the start of 2013. This figure fell even lower, to just under 6%, when talking exclusively to UK companies.

Joe Skorupa, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said he was unsurprised by the figures, as the reality is that SDN products are only just getting into the market.

“You have the likes of HP which has products out in beta, NEC working with large carriers in the early phases in Japan, Alcatel-Lucent just [starting out], and Cisco has no SDN, or even an anti-SDN product it is beginning to ship, making its own 7700 series obsolete,” he said.

“There are only a handful of companies shipping small amounts of these products and, even then, it will take months to qualify them within real enterprise environments.”

Nick Williams, senior product manager of datacentre IP in EMEA for Brocade, agreed that despite the hype, SDN is still at its very early stages.

“While some industries currently have a stronger use case than others (such as cloud service providers), there is no doubt that SDN is still in its infancy,” he said. “As with many technology advancements, in reality it is likely to take another few years for the industry to see widespread adoption.”

Skorupa believed it would not be until next year that companies began larger-scale deployments of SDN, but it depends largely on the early adopters, such as financial services, and their testing of equipment this year.

Download your copy of our IT Priorities 2014 Report

Benchmark your IT spending plans with our in-depth study of IT spending priorities in the UK, France, Germany, and Europe in 2014.

“We will see adoption ramp up in 2015, but only if the trials and early productions are successful,” he added. “Things always work in the labs, but it isn’t until you get things out in the wild and customers do things with the kit that the vendors can only imagine that you really know how well it works. You just cannot replicate that in vendor testing.”

Instead, the research showed firms were focusing their networking budgets on network management and monitoring, which was cited by 37% of respondents as the main networking initiative they would work on in 2014. This was followed by remote access/branch office connectivity and video-conferencing, both named by 28% of respondents, pushing mobile device management out of the top three from last year’s survey.

In the UK, unified communications and collaboration was named the biggest networking initiative to focus on, named by 35% of respondents compared with 24% in the Europe-wide survey. Video-conferencing and network management and monitoring were still important, coming in joint second with 34%.

Read more on Network software