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Federal IT Workers Say SDN Has Value, but Many Are Unfamiliar With It

A Juniper survey found that many government IT pros say SDN will help cut costs and increase efficiencies, but only a third have plans to adopt it.

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Many government agency IT administrators, under pressure to make their infrastructures more efficient and to drive down operating and capital expenses, see software-defined networks as a possible solution to some of their problems, according to a recent survey released by Juniper Networks.

However, the lack of knowledge about SDN—which has been getting the lion's share of attention from vendors, users and the media alike—is surprisingly high among government IT professionals, the survey found.

"While the study shows that a significant number of federal IT professionals see how SDN will help improve business agility and efficiencies needed by agencies, the survey also points to an important knowledge gap of SDN among federal IT professionals," Mark Belk, chief architect for national government at Juniper, said in a statement. "There is a clear need to develop a defined road map with an eye toward future-proofing government IT."

As Congress continues to slash the federal budget, 72 percent of government IT professionals said the top priority of their agencies is to cut costs, followed closely by increasing efficiency and business agility (at 68 percent) and meeting mandates (60 percent).

Those are the types of priorities SDN—with the goal of making networks not only more programmable and flexible, but also more cost-effective and efficient—should be able to help with. And according to 66 percent of the respondents, SDN will be important in helping them meet federal mandates and various efficiency and budgetary requirements, according to the survey. Thirty-four percent said they have real plans to adopt SDN within the next two years—and most within the next 13 months—while 91 percent said they can see at least one area in their organization that could benefit from the technology.

Of those in executive or management positions, 61 percent said SDN is an important factor in their networking buying decisions.

That said, there is a question of how prepared agencies are to adopt SDN. Sixty-one percent of the 250 government IT professionals surveyed by Wakefield Research said they are unfamiliar with SDN, and even among those who are familiar, 58 percent had two or more misconceptions about the technology. For example, 11 percent said SDN applied only to data centers (it doesn't) while 15 percent believed it required manual configuration of hardware (it actually is designed to remove manual configuration of the hardware, which will make the networks more dynamic, flexible and agile).