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Measuring SDN Growth

Mar 20, 2014

ONF’s NBI Working Group Chairperson, Sarwar Raza, looks back at the recent ONS event. 

If one were to apply some kind of timescale to when Software-Defined Networking (SDN) entered into mainstream consciousness, we’d likely triangulate to the premier SDN conference, the Open Networking Summit (ONS) and their first event in 2011. Last week marked the fourth ONS, held in Santa Clara, Calif.

One of the main highlights of this year’s conference was the clear focus on openness, and the steady growth of an ecosystem of hardware, software and solution providers that espouse a commitment to openness that really is at the heart of SDN; the democratization of SDN doesn’t start and end with standards (though that doesn’t hurt), but with a fundamental mind shift, on both the producer (vendor) and consumer side. Openness was a key theme throughout the summit even with AT&T’s Senior Executive VP, John Donovan when he outlined the four key principles for AT&T’s SDN direction: open, simple, scale, and secure. When AT&T agrees with Jim Zemlin from The Linux Foundation and Dan Pitt from ONF, you know the SDN movement is making strides.

We also saw multiple examples of the symbiosis between SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) as real technology ‘game-changers’. The economics are compelling, and the technology is catching up. And, NFV orchestrated using SDN principles is just…logical.

Overall, attendance numbers were up with nearly 2,000 attendees this year, and the diversity of the supplier and potential customer base continues to increase. Pundits, skeptics, marketeers abound – but no one really questions the WHAT or WHY, just the WHEN, with respect to adoption. Some of those cries are getting louder in market segments (like the enterprise) where adoption has been ‘slower’ by some undefined metric, relative to the bleeding edge proponents and mega-scale adopters, now including service providers, who have dominated the ‘real world’ conversation to date. Some of the impatience stems from investors looking for an exit: most of it is real, bottled-up customer frustration reacting to years of SDN washing that has failed to yield that killer app.

Every year, the industry convenes to see incremental, measurable progress towards the promised land of SDN. How blown away you are, or, conversely how disappointed, is entirely a function of your personal pain points, or your vested interest in the success or failure of the SDN movement. This is a journey, a transformational experience that we will look back upon years from now as a seismic shift for our industry. We owe it to early adopters and customers to heed and hear their frustrations and make concrete attempts to address them. That said, it might take a tad bit longer than we initially thought.  But we’re making great progress, by any measure.

– Sarwar Raza, Chairperson of the Northbound Interfaces Working Group