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A World Wide Effort

Jul 15, 2016
Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn About the author

SDN is having an impact on networking throughout the globe. 

SDN It is no secret that SDN has made great strides over the last five years. In this time, we have seen SDN grow and expand to have a global impact. Research firm IDC recently forecasted that the worldwide SDN market will be worth nearly $12.5 billion by 2020. There is good reason for this projected growth – as more and more connected devices emerge for consumer and enterprise use, the networks will be tasked with handling the increase in traffic flow and radically changed usage patterns. The reality is, not all networks today are set up to manage traffic in the ways that can accommodate their evolving usage. Here are three areas within the networking industry that are driving SDN adoption around the globe.

Cloud Data Centers

Data centers are growing in complexity and requiring greater agility, motivating enterprises to move their data centers to the cloud. In 2014, cloud traffic crossed the zettabyte threshold, and according to the Cisco Cloud Index Report, more than 86 percent of all data center traffic will be based in the cloud by 2019. Cloud data centers support increased virtualization, standardization, and automation leading to better performance as well as higher capacity and throughput, but at the cost of significantly increased network complexity. With virtualization, services move rapidly between physical hosts, and data must often migrate between locations. To cope with these demands the network fabric must be dynamically reconfigurable in real-time, while exponential growth in the number of network connected devices is rendering manual control of the network logistically and economically unfeasible. Even though traditional switched networks are still prevalent in the enterprise, the value of SDN in coping effectively with and even reducing complexity in the data center is already well established. The performance of cloud data centers with SDN means that administrators can deploy new services quickly and securely, scale them gracefully and cost effectively, and optimize utilization of resources in support of evolving network usage. Now more than ever, reliable implementations of SDN technologies is an essential requirement for leading data centers.


SDN creates a direct channel of communication between applications and network functionality, very much in contrast with traditional networking where applications see the network as a “black box” into they have very limited oversight. SDN makes it possible for applications to replace and expand current network functions that have traditionally been delivered through proprietary network appliances and hardware devices. SDN-enabled applications can actively request specific network resources and participate in managing network bandwidth and Quality of Service (QoS), thus directly impacting customer experience, delivering new monetization opportunities and ultimately enhancing the network's overall business value. For example, consider self-optimizing networks. Organizations have long relied on technologies such as load balancers and mobile optimization, applied on a device-by-device level and not holistically. Self-optimizing networks enable IT managers to have a bird's-eye view of the entire network, allowing them to manage, route, and prioritize traffic effectively. Since optimization can be done automatically via an application, these networks can turn the network overload into a balanced load, improving the quality of user experience. By thinking of these applications now, network infrastructure providers and operators will be able to rapidly evolve and provide customized, flexible networks that enhance the user experience and positively affect their bottom line. Moreover, many of these network functions are now available as Open Source Software that can be deployed on standard COTS or merchant silicon based platforms, reducing both OPEX and CAPEX, avoiding vendor lock-in, and enabling a more agile response to changing networking requirements.

5G Connectivity

With the emergence of connected devices from smartphones to fitness trackers, our mobile networks will soon face a revolution. Current mobile connectivity, 4G, has lived up to its expectations. But in order for mobile networks to successfully transmit communication from the disparate connected devices that are emerging, they too will also need to change, and SDN can help. The next generation of connectivity is already being tested in some markets around the globe. There are also plans to have 5G connectivity up and running as early as the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, Korea. 5G promises to provide 100 times greater speed, latency cut by a factor of five, and data volume capacity up to 1,000 times greater than 4G. In order for 5G networks to be successful, they will need to have SDN at the core to allow flexibility and programmability. As more devices infiltrate the network, SDN and NFV will be critical in not only reallocating resources based on demand, but also deploying services to the network’s edge. 5G will drive a revolutionary change in the way networks operate and SDN will help them along in this revolution.

The networking areas highlighted above are not acute to one region over another. All of these areas touch various businesses around the globe in need of SDN today in order to support network connectivity of the future. As SDN continues on its path of exponential growth, we will continue to hear about new use cases that SDN impacts for the better. It is clear that SDN will continue to have a global impact as the revolution continues.

- Marc LeClerc, Market Area Director and VP of Strategy and Marketing for NoviFlow

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Marc Cohn