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Top 5 Predictions for the SDN Industry in 2014

The great Wayne Gretzky once put his strategy for success in ice hockey as follows: “I figure out where the puck is going to be next, and I get there first.” The New Year always provides a welcome excuse to stop the mad rush that is life in the world of high-tech, and to put some serious thought about “getting to where the puck is going to be”.

In this spirit, the team at NoviFlow has spent the recent days thinking about where the networking “puck” is heading this year. In particular, we’ve focused on the software-defined networking industry which continues to see rapid growth and acquisition activity already happening in 2014. Based on this research, we’ve assembled five predictions about the SDN market that NoviFlow would like to share with our friends this year:

1) SDN/OpenFlow switches will split into two major categories: 

– “Bare metal” switches that offer only the base OpenFlow capabilities on merchant silicon, and

– “Intelligent Edge Switches” deployed on network processors that will offer enhanced traffic filtering and shaping at network access and egress points. These switches will enable Data Center Interconnect (DCI) applications to run independently from existing edge protocols such as BGP, and will make flow management possible beyond L2 and L3 all the way into L7.

2) The Software Defined Internet Exchange (SDX) on OpenFlow will make a bold debut in the IXP marketplace. It will become a leading example of how SDN and OpenFlow can be used in a novel way to solve problems that are almost intractably difficult using conventional networking solutions.

3) With the arrival of high-throughput and very large flow table OpenFlow switches, load balancing, tunneling, and L2-L7 edge security will became major commercial applications of SDN and OpenFlow. L4-L7 based applications in particular will significantly increase agility, expand differentiation and deliver new revenue opportunities.

4) SDN will be recognized as a key enabling technology for Network Function Virtualization (NFV). NFV will make it possible for network operators to gain the same virtualization benefits now enjoyed by network compute and storage resources, but at the cost of increased network complexity. SDN will be seen as the network technology that greatly simplifies and speeds the implementation of virtualized services in a network (i.e. increased new service velocity), thus enabling the deployment of NFV.

5) In much the same way, SDN will be recognized as a key enabling technology for the Hybrid Cloud. SDN will be deployed as an enabling technology that greatly simplifies and speeds the implementation of cross domain virtual networks, and in particular one that offers the quick setup and tear-down of network accesses. It will also deliver the tools needed by cloud providers to expose network capabilities (such as load balancing, firewalls, security appliances, etc.) as on-demand services that can be instantly accessible to customers via standard web interfaces, just as compute and storage are offered now.

At NoviFlow, we already have seen the signs of most of these under way at the SDN and OpenFlow World Congress in October, and the Carrier Network Virtualization conference in Palo Alto in early December (both in 2013). All of these five trends are happening in parallel and driven by the cloudification of practically everything and massive pressure by network carriers towards the deployment of NFV. As a result, we expect 2014 to be a banner year for SDN and a tipping point for the networking industry’s embrace of the OpenFlow standard.