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Software-Defined Networking Drives Interest and Confusion

Tail-f Systems has announced the findings of its 2013 Software Defined Networking Survey, which shows nearly nine of ten organizations are at least discussing SDN. In fact, SDN was judged by more than 200 large companies in North America to be the single most important technology initiative, eclipsing cloud, virtualization and mobility. Despite the high interest, however, the survey reveals that most companies are still fairly confused as to exactly what SDN is.
The survey showed that SDN is a hot topic within IT organizations. When presented with a list of five different IT initiatives, 87 percent of respondents chose SDN as important, surpassing virtualization, mobility and even cloud.
According to the survey, 9 out of 10 (89 percent) respondents are discussing SDN. The drivers mentioned by respondents focused on applications or services – primarily that they are increasingly important, there are more of them, and they are rolled out at a faster pace than ever before. Also on their minds was interest in automating the network, and the prevalence of virtualization.
Given the high interest in SDN, organizations are still confused about what SDN is. In fact, most (92 percent) rate their understanding of SDN as pretty good or even complete; yet only about half (51 percent) chose a correct definition of SDN.
87% of NA enterprises see SDN as more important than cloud or virtualization, yet only 51% know what SDN is! 
When asked what a multi-vendor SDN model was, two-thirds (68 percent) were familiar with this approach and 62 percent found it attractive for their network environments. In light of the fact that most large enterprise network environments contain multiple vendors' devices and solutions, respondents are looking for solutions that can fit their network model easily without added infrastructure costs.
As organizations become more informed about SDN and begin to deploy it, Tail-f recommends that organizations:
  • Focus on networking applications and services, not the actual network – by automating applications and services organizations will realize greater benefits when deploying SDN within their network environments.
  • Use multi-vendor SDN for multi-vendor networks – match your SDN model to your network model. If you have a one vendor network, purchase your SDN solution from that same vendor. Multi-vendor networks require a solution designed to control both open standards-based equipment (e.g., OpenFlow) as well as proprietary equipment.
  • Centralize what you can, distribute the rest – the key to SDN is centralizing control plane functionality. But not all control plane functionality is best served by such centralization.
  • Insist on open standards – such as YANG, NETCONF and OpenFlow as key points within an SDN architecture. This will both extend and future-proof SDN investments.

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