SDN ambitions continue to outpace SDN capabilities

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Fewer than one in three

IT decision-makers

say they’re very confident that that their existing networks will be able to cope with the strains likely to be placed on them over the next year. But with 2015 budgets looking tight, many will have no option but to make do and mend.

That’s the verdict from a survey released by networking specialist

Brocade Technologies

at this year’s IP EXPO Europe. While 33 percent of respondents are prioritising improvements to existing infrastructure in order to support business growth in 2015, almost as many (31 percent) says they’ll simply be focussing on keeping existing infrastructure up and running for another year.

But the picture isn’t all doom and gloom: the research also uncovered a strong appetite among IT leaders for

IT network innovation

. This includes moving to what Brocade executives call ‘the New IP’, a term the company applies to new IT networking approaches to support greater use of cloud computing and mobile technologies.

“Given the focus on efficiency, it is not surprising that many organisations expect to be increasingly reliant on cloud services in the coming year, as this is potentially a great way for IT departments to deliver more value without increasing capital expenditure,” said Brocade EMEA vice president Marcus Jewell, in response to the findings.

“Cloud computing - in conjunction with pervasive mobility and the

Internet of Things

- will also have a major impact on the role of the New IP. These are all network-centric computing models and so will only add to the need for fast, flexible and reliable connectivity. It is therefore vital that the network is fit-for-purpose so it can enable, rather than inhibit, the expected growth of cloud services,” he added.

In line with that, 40 percent of respondents to Brocade’s survey say that they are planning to deploy

software-defined networking

(SDN) within the next five years, with one in three of those deeming it likely they’ll do so in the next three years. Thirty-four percent, meanwhile are looking to adopt network functions virtualisation (NFV) within that five-year timeframe, with just over one-quarter of those (27 percent) keen to do so before 2018.

But ambition is one thing, capability quite another. Thirty-seven percent of respondents say they do not fully understand SDN, while 45 percent are in the dark over NFV and its potential benefits.

That tallies closely with recent research from IT market research firm Gartner, which aimed to look at what ‘mainstream’ enterprises are doing with SDN - as opposed to hyper-scale web companies (such as Google, Facebook or Amazon), who tend to lead the implementation of new technology approaches.

The top-line findings, published in a blog by Gartner’s Andrew Lerner, are pretty telling.

First, Gartner found that mainstream businesses deploying SDN today are a rare thing indeed. In fact, they estimate that there are probably between just 500 and 1,000 mainstream deployments of SDN in the world today.

Second, of those deployments that do exist, roughly half involve technologies from vendors that are not in the top five in switching revenue, including NEC and VMware.

Third, the biggest challenge to date, as reported by companies that have deployed SDN, are organisational or cultural in nature, and not technological. In particular, hand-off of fresh SDN deployments to day-to-day

IT operations

has been fraught with difficulties, they report.

Jewell’s Brocade readily admits there are still many hurdles to be overcome. “While our findings show that there is growing enthusiasm among IT leaders for these technologies, a significant number still do not fully understand the potential benefits. It’s clear therefore that more education is needed if SDN and NFV are to truly realise a new kind of IP network that is better aligned with the evolution of the rest of IT.”

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