Comparing and Contrasting SDN Across the Pond

How do the U.S. and Europe compare on SDN? To find out, we just replicated a survey we conducted in the U.S. last year. At the MPLS SDN World Congress in Paris a few weeks ago, we polled more than 100 service providers and equipment providers (mostly based in the EU) about their SDN plans, business drivers and concerns. Added to the U.S.-based survey of 100, the results show many similarities as well as some interesting differences. 

Production SDN Deployment Lower in Europe 

More than 90 percent of the 200+ respondents to the two surveys said their organizations are exploring SDN in some way. However, while 74 percent of the EU-based respondents said their organizations are either researching or prototyping SDN, only about eight percent said they currently have some production deployment. This compares to 20 percent of the U.S. survey respondents who indicated some production deployment (with 62 percent either researching or prototyping SDN).

The percentage planning to deploy production SDN in either this year or in 2015 was similar for both sets, with eight percent in the U.S. and 11 percent in Europe. Only 11 percent in the U.S. and seven percent in Europe have no current SDN plans.

Top Business Drivers: EU Respondents More Concerned about Saving Money 

When asked to list the main business drivers for deploying SDN, both geographies indicated the same ones, but Europe is more concerned about reducing expenditures. Here are the top business drivers:

    • Support new services (cloud, big data apps, mobility, etc.): Europe: 55 percent; U.S.: 43 percent
    • Increase business agility (respond faster to new network demands): Europe: 37 percent; U.S.: 26 percent
    • Improve productivity (better network availability and performance for customers/users): Europe: 22 percent; U.S.: 14 percent
    • Reducing expenditures: More than one-third of European respondents said reducing operational (19 percent) or capital (13 percent) expenditures is the top business reason for investigating SDN. In the U.S., 13 percent said reducing operational expenditures is their top motivator for SDN, while only four percent indicated it is reducing capital expenditures. 

Top Concern: Complexity

When asked about their biggest concerns with SDN, service providers on both continents said complexity is number one (Europe: 46 percent; U.S.: 57 percent). The 200+ survey respondents agreed on other top concerns: vendor lock-in (25 percent average), cost to implement (25 percent average), and lack of management visibility (22 percent average). An average of 11 percent said SDN is not worth the effort and cost. Respondents were able to list more than one concern.

Majority Skeptical about Existing Management Tools 

Europeans are even more concerned than their stateside counterparts that some of their existing management tools will not work with SDN (85 percent versus 71 percent in the U.S.). Most all also agree that SDN creates new management challenges that require new tools (average of 83 percent). About one-third of the 200+ surveyed are depending upon their network equipment vendor(s) to supply the SDN management tools they need.

There is certainly high interest in SDN around the world, but until the industry works out the management issues, deployment will remain low. We already have a few service providers using our technology in their SDN prototype deployments, but more needs to be done. We are very excited about our Network Access Broker proof of concept, which will determine if the wide area network can handle application requests without adversely impacting other applications.