The software-defined networking market will balloon over the next few years, according to analysts with the Dell'Oro Group.
In a recent report, Dell'Oro analysts said they expect the SDN market to grow sixfold over the next five years, with Ethernet switches and network security appliances making up the bulk of the space. They will account for 75 percent of SDN sales revenue in 2013, according to the analyst firm.
"Almost every major Ethernet Switch vendor with exposure in the data center is announcing significant new products over the next several weeks," Dell'Oro Vice President Alan Weckel said in a statement. "We predict a wide variety of manufacturers will engage in battle for the supremacy of data center spending and control."
Data center equipment sales—including servers, storage, Ethernet switches and data center appliances—will be more than $100 billion this year, Weckel said. Gaining share of that data center spending will be important to Ethernet switch vendors because almost all revenue growth over the next five years will come from data center products and because there will be fewer—although larger—deals, he said.
In addition, "SDN is changing who owns application and network control points," Weckel said.
Dell'Oro is not the only group expecting rapid growth around SDN. IDC analysts in December 2012 said they expect SDN revenues to hit $3.7 billion by 2016. However, another study early this year by SDN startup Plexxi, Website SDNCentral and venture capital firm Venture Partners forecast the SDN market to grow to $35 billion by 2018.
SDNs promise more dynamic, programmable, automated and cost-effective networks by decoupling the control plane from the underlying physical layer and housing it in software, while enabling network services to be created above it. Established players like Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks are rapidly building out their SDN and network virtualization initiatives, while a range of startups also are looking for traction in the burgeoning space.
At the same time, Cisco and others—such as VMware—are looking at SDN as an important piece of a larger data center solutions play. Cisco on Nov. 6 is scheduled to unveil new offerings from its "spin-in" company Insieme during an event in New York City, which will include an address by Cisco CEO John Chambers.