In the fast-growing world of software-defined networking, there is room for both large and small vendors, at least for now.
According to a recent survey by QuinStreet Enterprise of 466 IT professionals, most larger enterprises, when adopting network virtualization technologies, are turning to established networking vendors, which is good news for the likes of Cisco Systems and VMware, with its NSX software-defined networking (SDN) platform.
However, the survey also found that midsize and smaller companies tend to rely more heavily on the channel and niche vendors, which bodes well for Big Switch and others.
“As interest in SDN grows, so too do the solutions from which to choose,” the survey’s authors wrote in a summary. “Today, organizations can build their SDN architecture from a variety of channels.”
QuinStreet Enterprise, which runs eWEEK, among other technology news sites, earlier this month released “SDN Growth Takes IT Infrastructure by Storm”, the results of a survey done to gauge the adoption trends of network virtualization technologies, not only SDN but also network-functions virtualization (NFV) and virtual LANs (VLANs). In all, the survey found that while SDN is still in the early stages of adoption, use and interest in the technology is significantly advanced from when the company did a similar survey two years ago.
Overall, they survey found that 39 percent of respondents said they are either currently using SDN technologies in their environments or will deploy them within the next 12 months. Ten percent of respondents said their timeframe is 13 to 24 months, and another 25 percent are considering the technology, but have yet to set a timetable.
“This growth in the number of deployments, SDN offerings and supplier options demonstrates that SDN has moved beyond being just hype,” the authors said in the summary.
The survey’s findings echo what others in the industry are saying. In a recent interview, Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, said he has heard of few, if any, companies that aren’t at least thinking about bringing network virtualization into their environments.
“No one is saying that they will go back to the way it was,” Pitt told eWEEK.
SDN and NFV hold the promise of more scalable, flexible, agile and affordable network infrastructures by removing the control plane and various networking tasks—such as load balancing, firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention—from the underlying physical gear and putting them into software that can run on commodity servers or other systems.
Hyperscale companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon, which have a lot of IT resources in-house already, are adopting SDN in their data centers. However, many other enterprises and smaller companies are still in the testing and pointed deployment stages. They have a broad array of deployment methods—such as cloud-based deployment, virtual switches, bare metal or a combination of the three—and a large number of vendors to work with.
Larger vendors like Cisco, Juniper Networks, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and VMware are rapidly building out their network virtualization capabilities, while a range of smaller companies—Big Switch Networks, Plexxi, Pica8, Midokura, Cumulus Networks and others—also are making inroads.
According to the QuinStreet Enterprise survey, the vendors most cited by respondents were established players, such as Cisco, Citrix Systems, VMware, Dell, IBM and HPE. For example, 45 percent of respondents said they already are using Cisco technology, and another 20 percent said they are considering it.
However, the survey authors wrote, “that may change given that niche suppliers are surviving into late stages.”
Of companies surveyed that had 1,000 or more employees, 43 percent said they are most likely to purchase SDN equipment from large networking vendors, while another 19 percent said they would go with a value-added reseller (VAR). Ten percent said they’d choose a niche player. For companies with 100 to 999 employees, 33 percent said they’d opt for a large vendor, while 19 percent said they’d choose a reseller, 17 percent a niche vendor and 17 percent a VAR.
Twenty-one percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees said they’d opt for a large vendor, 16 percent said a reseller, 13 percent a VAR and 12 percent a niche vendor. Twenty-nine percent opted for “other.”
Large Enterprises Turning to Established Vendors for SDN, Survey Finds
The first few weeks of 2016 have brought good news for network virtualization vendors both large and small. Talking about the company’s most recent quarterly financial numbers, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said that since introducing its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) technology two years ago, the business has built a $2 billion run rate and grew 100 percent over the past quarter.
“We are defining the next generation of networking, beginning with the data center with our ACI platform providing the automation and programmability for our customers’ most critical business applications, with the scale, speed and security they require,” Robbins said during a conference call about the quarterly earnings numbers.
Meanwhile, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said that the company’s NSX business grew 100 percent year-over-year, with an annual run rate of more than $600 million. That number was at $200 million this time last year. Nine of VMware’s top 10 deals involved NSX, and another six of the 10 involved VMware’s vSAN offering.
Later this year, the company will roll out a new NSX offering that “will enable customers to create secure and encrypted overlay networks across public clouds, including AWS [Amazon Web Services] and [Microsoft] Azure and on-premise data centers,” Gelsinger said during a conference call. “This new service will provide unparalleled connectivity, security and visibility across multi-cloud IT resources, regardless of whether the underlying infrastructure is VMware- based or not.”
VMware is offering the new service in limited trials on top of AWS, he said.
Smaller vendors also are off to a good start in 2016. In January, Big Switch Networks received $48.5 million in funding from investment firms, while Cumulus Networks got a reported $35 million. Plexxi also received an unannounced amount of funding from GV, formerly known as Google Ventures.
IDC analysts this month said they expect the SDN market—including physical infrastructure, virtualization and control software, applications and professional services—to grow 53.9 percent annually, reaching $12.5 billion by 2020.
“While networking hardware will continue to hold a prominent place in network infrastructure, SDN is indicative of a long-term value migration from hardware to software in the networking industry,” Brad Casemore, director of research for data center networking at IDC, said in a statement. “For vendors, this will portend a shift to software- and service-based business models, and for enterprise customers, it will mean a move toward a more collaborative approach to IT and a more business-oriented understanding of how the network enables application delivery.”