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"SDN will be mainstream by 2017" says new report

“Data Centre and SDN Strategies: North American Enterprise Survey” from research house Infonetics concludes that the trend to virtualisation is paving the way for SDN to such an extent that the technology is now an unstoppable juggernaut.

The 32-page report adds that SDN will first change the face of data centres in the US before rolling on around the world as enterprises look to save costs and increase efficiency by virtualising networks, servers and storage.

As the basis of its new report, Infonetics Research interviewed senior staff from 105 medium- and large-sized enterprises across the US and Canada about their plans for data centre hardware, management software, and cloud services. Interviewees were also asked about data centre profiles, spending plans, investment drivers, server virtualisation, Ethernet and storage technologies and about their SDN deployment plans. They were also asked to identify and list the top SDN vendors.

The survey shows that that 58 per cent of respondents expect their data centres to be virtualised by 2015. The main driver for the change is to "improve application performance".

Dr. Cliff Grossner, the Directing Analyst for data centre and cloud at Infonetics says, “Physical networks continue to be the foundation for the high-performance connectivity that today’s virtualised applications demand, and our latest data centre study bears this out, confirming that investment in data centre technologies remains robust as businesses seek to improve application performance, increase security, and reduce costs”.

He adds, “Virtualisation is unstoppable. With the average number of virtual machines per server hitting 30 by 2015, we look for virtual switches running on general purpose servers to become the new network edge.”

Most respondents cited Cisco as the company 'most likely to' provide the best and most comprehensive virtualisation solutions whilst Avaya, Dell, HP, IBM, Juniper, Microsoft, Oracle and VMware were all identified and honourably mentioned in interviewee lists of Top Three SDN vendors.

The interviewees also cited processing speed as the most important criteria when choosing a vendor and equipment for the data centre, with 66 per cent of respondents wanting vendors to support 10GE, 40GE, and even 100GE.

Interestingly (particularly for vendors who are going to be living in interesting times), network equipment is increasingly being bought as part of a data-centre-in-a-rack or app-in-a-rack bundle rather than as separate best-of-breed solutions for servers, storage, and networking. That trend is going to put the cat among the pigeons and consolidation in the vendor market could well follow in a few years, with some big names either being gobbled-up of exiting the sector altogether.

What seems to be happening is that enterprises, having learned about SDN over the course of 2013 are now seriously evaluating the technology and available equipment but most, apart from a few early adopters and technology pioneers with nerves of steel, will, as the Infonetics report says, "wait to deploy it until they believe it’s ready for prime time". Infonetics says that will be 2017.

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