5 predictions for software-defined networking in 2015

As businesses increasingly demand more agile and flexible IT services, the network has become a focal point for innovation.

Adoption of the cloud, mobility and big data technologies is on the increase, leading the IT department to address how they can best support these developing trends whilst benefitting the customer and employee experience.

One approach that technology decision makers are considering is the adoption of a software-defined network (SDN) to provide a faster, more agile and scalable infrastructure.

SDN, in a nutshell, provides holistic network management and the ability to apply more granular unified security policies whilst reducing operational expenses, such as the need to use specific vendor hardware and additional technology investments. IDC recently predicted that this market is set to grow from $960 million in 2014 to more than $8 billion by 2018, globally.

Here are five of the biggest trends in SDN we can expect to see develop over the next 12 months.

1. Service function chaining for security will continue to be a top use case in data centres

To date, most SDN use cases have been enterprise data centres with technologies focused on network virtualisation and multi-tenancy to support the business requirements around IT agility and efficiency. 2015 will bring with it a shift towards something we call “service chaining”, which addresses challenges around proprietary hardware that telecoms network operators sought to address with the ETSI Industry Specification Group for Network Function Virtualisation (NFV).

In 2015, enterprises will begin to see the opex and capex benefits in virtualising their network services in a similar way to service providers with the NFV initiative, whereby firewalls, application delivery controllers and VPN gateways will be amongst the first. Not only will this create the opportunity to become more agile and efficient in the enterprise data centre, it will also leverage the tremendous pace of innovation, performance boost and cost savings that x86 based architectures are already demonstrating today.

2. Increase in overlays will be adopted for large data centre deployments

An overlay network is a computer network built atop of another network. In today’s Internet peer-to-peer networks, VPNs and application specific networks like Skype are examples of common overlay networks. After laying low for a while, the industry should see accelerated adoption of overlay-based network virtualisation solutions in the enterprise, provided by both large incumbent virtualisation vendors and new players in the market. The integration of overlay and underlay networks in the data centre will become important as pure play overlay solutions will create a new set of challenges around traffic management, service scheduling and troubleshooting.

3. Big data analytics driven by the network

Enterprise mobility is about a lot more than the mobile device – mobility and agility across the entire enterprise network requires access to data from any device. To maximise the user experience, IT must make sure that applications can be seamlessly delivered from the cloud – private or public – to those users and devices that require them to perform their jobs. A big data analytics driven solution captures and analyses application traffic to optimise IT operations and security, while providing context for better business decisions and analytics, at unprecedented scale and performance.

4. SDN enters the campus market

SDN adoption will continue to emerge in different markets at varying paces, but one area that will be a focus in 2015 is the campus. The disparate and often detached locations within a campus will make it more complex to deploy but the benefits will by far outweigh the challenges. A series of fabric technologies using various tunneling techniques will be used to provide scale.

As part of the innovation around mobility services in the campus, we are also expecting a series of vertically-focused innovations – specifically in sports and entertainment, retail, healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing.

5. First OpenDaylight-based production deployment

In 2015, we will begin to see the first deployments from the SDN collaborative project, OpenDaylight, which aims to help accelerate the development of technology available to users and enable widespread adoption of SDN. This project has laid the foundation for the heart of SDN deployments today – it is the central control component and intelligence that allows customers to achieve network-wide objectives in a much more simplified fashion than what was previously possible. The community, which includes more than a dozen vendors, is addressing the need for an open reference framework programmability and control enabling accelerated innovation for customers of any size and in any vertical.

>See also: SDN is an economic principle whose time has come: Open Networking Foundation founder

The idea of SDN is no longer new, but is a technology that is gaining momentum because new-generation applications and today’s business require a new level of agility and service-level responsiveness across the entire network infrastructure. SDN is able to address the simultaneous needs for virtualisation, management, mobility and agility in these environments while significantly expanding the ability to innovate leveraging the new capabilities of a SDN-based infrastructure.

In order to implement an SDN solution, it will be imperative for enterprises to firstly make themselves familiar with the technology and its components, create cross functional IT teams that include applications, security, systems and network to get an understanding what they wish to achieve and secondly, investigate best-of-breed vendor solutions that can deliver innovative and reliable SDN solutions which leverage existing investments without the need to overhaul longstanding technologies. This way, businesses can reap the benefits of SDN whilst saving time as well as money and mitigate risk.


Sourced from Markus Nispel, Extreme Networks

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...