SDN a Mixed Bag for U.S. Enterprises

Juniper Networks recently surveyed 400 enterprise IT “decision makers” in government, education, financial services and healthcare about their SDN adoption plans. The results were split: While almost 53 percent have plans to deploy SDN, the other half (48 percent) has no plans to adopt the technology.

Nearly three-quarters of those who plan to implement SDN say they will do so within the next year. Their motivations are the perceived SDN benefits of improved network performance and efficiency (26 percent), simplified network operations (19 percent), and cost savings on operations (13 percent). The survey does not delve into how much of these enterprise networks will be SDN-enabled. Indeed, 63 percent of those surveyed said business networks in the next five years will be a mix of software-defined and traditional.

The gap between the perceived benefits and reality on the ground may be inhibiting SDN deployments. The survey respondents cited cost (50 percent), difficulty integrating with existing systems (35 percent), security concerns (34 percent), and lack of skills from existing employees (28 percent) as the top challenges to SDN adoption.

In addition, the survey revealed that enterprises are looking for certain criteria in their SDN solutions (that many SDN providers are struggling with, we might add): high availability and resiliency (30 percent), analytics and reporting (23 percent), automation and rapid provisioning (19 percent), open source options (12 percent), and scale (10 percent).

For instance, analytics and reporting are key. A programmable network that automatically adapts to application demands clouds the visibility network operators need to manage the network. The fact that applications and services can be rolled out without operator intervention is fine as long as everything operates properly. But when the inevitable problems occur, where do network operators go to understand the current network state, identify what changes were made, and troubleshoot problems? And how do you plan for new apps and services in the first place? Who or what governs whether or not these programmatic changes should be made? How do you know if the network can support a new request without negatively impacting existing applications?

These are all questions that need to be answered before SDN can be widely adopted. It’s interesting that whether they plan to implement SDN in the short term or not, 77 percent of the respondents believe most business networks in the future will include SDN technology. They must have some faith that SDN vendors and/or service providers will make it happen. Packet Design is certainly working on it.

Read more of the survey results here: