SDN Deployments/Worries Rise Among Service Providers

For the second consecutive year, Packet Design surveyed attendees of the SDN/MPLS International Conference in Washington, D.C. about SDN adoption, business drivers, and concerns. The answers – mostly from service providers – were very interesting compared to the 2013 survey. Overall, use of SDN in production networks is up, but so are concerns about everything from industry standards to management skills to tools. Here’s a rundown of the results (also summarized in our announcement)

Production SDNs Increase 

More than half of this year’s survey respondents (53 percent) said they have some production SDN deployed, compared to only 19 percent of survey respondents in 2013. Of those, about 42 percent have up to 25 percent of their networks SDN-enabled. Only 11 percent indicated having between 26 and 75 percent of their networks as production SDN. 

Business Agility, New Services Up as Top Business Drivers 

The number of survey respondents who consider “agility to respond faster to business demands” as their number one driver jumped by 150 percent (65 percent in 2014 vs. only 26 percent in 2013). Nearly 60 percent said the main business driver behind SDN in their organizations is supporting new services such as cloud, big data applications, and mobility, compared to 43 percent in 2013. More than 40 percent indicated that reducing costs is number one, compared to 17 percent in 2013. Nearly one-third identified improving network availability and performance as their highest motivation, up from 14 percent in 2013. 

Concerns about Industry Standards/Complexity/Management Tools Also Rise 

Lack of industry standards (56 percent) edged out SDN complexity (53 percent – down from 57 percent in 2013) as the number one concern for service providers. Only 26 percent were concerned about industry standards in 2013. “Inadequate management visibility and control” worries 32 percent of respondents, up from 21 percent in 2013. The number concerned about “cost to implement” remained roughly the same (22 percent). 

Regarding tools to manage SDN, nearly every respondent indicated that SDN creates novel management challenges that require new analytics and orchestration tools (94 percent), and that some of their existing management tools will not work with SDN (92 percent). In 2013, those percentages were 84 and 71, respectively. More than 60 percent believe they will need fewer management tools for SDN (up from 48 percent in 2013). Only 13 percent think their network equipment vendor(s) will supply all the SDN management tools they need (down from 34 percent last year). Awareness of the management challenges presented by SDN may explain why more than 70 percent do not believe their network staffs are ready to manage SDN. 

The Need for SDN Management 

Clearly, for SDN to grow further, the industry needs to address these concerns. Automation creates even more demanding needs for management visibility and control, which traditional methods and tools cannot satisfy. This may partly explain the concerns about staff readiness and why many believe they will need fewer tools. However, someone needs to develop those SDN management tools. At Packet Design, we are doing our part with our Network Access Broker (NAB) prototype – our first foray into SDN analytics and orchestration – which we demoed live at the show. 

For more about the conference, including a summary of the presentation Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaetinnoglu gave there about SDN analytics and orchestration, see these blog entries: