SDN Adoption to Grow Rapidly Among Carriers: Informa

A survey by the research firm says mobile carriers will quickly adopt SDN to address the growing demands on their networks.

Mobile carriers will be among the leading adopters of software-defined networking technology as they look to make their networks more flexible and scalable to deal with the growing demand for data-intensive applications, according to a recent survey.

Ninety-three percent of mobile carriers expect to implement SDN initiatives in their businesses within the next five years, and half of them say it will happen within the next year or two, according to the survey by market research firm Informa Telecoms and Media.

The study results, sponsored by Juniper Networks and released July 4, were based on an online survey conducted by Informa in the first quarter.

SDN and its close relative, network function virtualization (NFV), have become the hot topics in the networking industry over the past couple of years. The goal of SDN is to make networks more responsive, scalable and programmable by separating the network intelligence from the underlying physical infrastructure and putting it into software.

Currently, having network functions housed in switches and routers makes networks more complex and expensive, and requires a lot of manual intervention. By leveraging virtualization to separate those network applications from the hardware, organizations can create networks that can be programmed automatically and on the fly, and that can scale quickly and easily.

This is attractive to mobile operators, who are under siege by the rapid growth of mobile devices connecting to their networks and demanding more data-intensive applications, such as video streaming. According to Informa's survey, mobile carriers are most likely to deploy SDN technologies initially to make their networks more scalable and flexible, to help address those demands.

Longer term, SDN will enable mobile carriers to more quickly and cost effectively create new mobile applications and services that they can sell to customers, according to the report.

"Mobile SDN is set to be one of the most transformative technologies implemented in the next few years," Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa, said in a statement. "Cost savings and network flexibility are arguably the first benefits to be considered, but providing a platform for new service-revenue opportunities and network exposure can help operators combat competition both within and outside the mobile value chain."

Mavrakis said he expects the first deployments of SDN in mobile networks to occur later this year and early 2014.