As the software-defined networking market begins to hit its stride, channel companies stand to benefit from networks that are easier to manage and adjust more readily to new customer applications.
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Software-defined networking (SDN) is a network architecture that allows for a centralized, programmable control plane, which reduces the administrative burden of having to configure individual networking devices. SDN helps partner companies speed up the task of providing new network service offerings, generate additional revenue and provide full visibility and control into networks through SDN offerings.
Anthony Delli Collibusiness development, Tallac
Gartner is projecting that SDN will be deployed in more than 10,000 enterprise networks worldwide by the end of 2016. IDC also sees tremendous growth in the SDN market size over the next few years, and forecasts and that worldwide market for enterprise and cloud service provider segments will grow from $960 million in 2014 to over $8 billion by 2018.
The reason SDN is gaining traction now is because "networking is broken and it has been broken for quite a while now," said Doug Marschke, founder and CTO of SDN Essentials, a professional services and education company. Basic things, such as traffic engineering and language for quality of service (QoS) policies, are being hacked together because they are based on protocols that were written in the 1990s and require manual processes to fix problems, he said.
"Any type of network change requires quite a bit of manual configuration today," said Marschke. "Maybe some pieces of configurations are scripted, but not network performance and optimization."
This is where channel companies such as managed service providers (MSPs) can play a strategic role. Instead of continuing to use a "blinking light methodology," when monitoring a customer's network, and watching for bandwidth changes and traffic patterns and making basic configuration changes, MSPs can help that customer adapt to new applications on the network and deploy services quickly, he said.
Benefits of the software-defined networking market
Tim Naramore, CTO of Masergy Communications Inc., a global cloud networking provider, said the real benefit for channel partner companies is "the ability to react quickly to customer needs." The network as a service self-service option on Masergy's SDN platform can be used by MSPs to manage end customer networks to change things like the bandwidth of their circuit, or QoS markings to determine how much allocation a customer might need at a given time.
"Typically, a customer will have voice QoS levels and [the partner] can change that dynamically by increasing or decreasing it" if an employee is doing a video conference, for example, so that there is a guaranteed amount of bandwidth on an as-needed basis, Naramore said.
"They can be tracking the good, the bad and the ugly interfaces and systems by adding traffic analytics or configuring on-the-fly-type services; those are things MSPs can get involved with," Marschke agreed. But the reason they haven't done a lot of SDN deployments yet is because there isn't a lot of interoperability" between vendor products.
The partner ecosystem plays a big role when it comes to figuring out which SDN products to use to ensure product integration, added Mike Fratto, principal analyst, Enterprise Network Systems, at Current Analysis. MSPs need to ensure that a load balancer from one vendor will work with an equipment vendor's controller, for example.
Software-defined networking: Market transition looms
"It will be a gradual transition to move from proprietary, closed networks to open SDN networks in campus networking, and how SDN campus networks are integrated into the private and public clouds in the data center," predicted Anthony Delli Colli, business development at Tallac Networks Inc., an SDN technology company that works with MSPs.
"We're still a ways away for enterprises to think about how to integrate their data center strategy with their LAN strategy," he said.
Customers typically do a network hardware refresh every four or five years, and the next one will be "profoundly different for enterprise networking," given how SDN is changing the landscape, Delli Colli said. "It is bringing orchestration and operational efficiencies to the data center."
Read about the projected SDN market size
Gain insight into the protocols underpinning the software-defined networking market