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Predictions for SDN development in 2016

This promises to be an exciting year for software-defined networking enthusiasts, with SDN development poised for explosive growth. Analyst John Burke shares his predictions.

The world of software-defined networking is evolving furiously toward broad enterprise and telecommunications utility. Here's some of what we should expect to see in SDN development in the coming year.

New players in enterprise campus SDN development

There is still plenty of room for 'Wow!' in [the SDN development] arena.

The field is already crowded, but we can expect at least a couple of new entrants in the market aimed at enterprise SDN outside the data center, using OpenFlow plus white boxes. Why? For one thing, there is still plenty of room for "Wow!" in this arena. For another, because we're now talking about a software play, the barrier to entry is low for both startups and established firms. I don't think it will be Microsoft, but several network monitoring and management vendors could easily take the plunge, from SolarWinds to BMC. Even carriers and Internet service providers might see an advantage in offering you a way to build out your network as a managed service -- only, growing from your Internet connection inwards rather than from the data center out. Both the major enterprise carriers -- such as AT&T -- and the rising enterprise challengers -- such as CenturyLink, Comcast and Windstream -- could take the plunge.

Broad adoption of NFV at the carrier edge

From the carrier perspective, network functions virtualization (NFV) has huge potential to reduce cost while increasing revenue and agility. From the enterprise user perspective, it reduces the cost and risk associated with trying new services and also reduces the wait time for spinning up new services. If the carrier can change your service stack by pushing new software to your location rather than rolling a truck to install new hardware, they can more easily sell you new services without spending as much to do so. You can try new things more often and more easily.

Few new SD-WAN vendors, many new SD-WAN offerings

With Cisco continuing to step up its simplicity game, and established smaller competitors such as Riverbed and Talari continuing to grow, and many existing SD-WAN newcomers -- such as CloudGenix and VeloCloud -- maturing rapidly, there aren't many niches left to fill. One or two new players may enter the space, but we're more likely to see a few of the existing newbies bought up instead -- e.g., Verizon or Cox buying Viptela or Saisei.

At the same time, we'll see -- through partnerships, organic development or acquisitions -- a continuing blossoming of SD-WAN offers from the carriers themselves. The logic of link aggregation, abstraction and overlay WAN is persuasive, and the message that the WAN should be easy and agile resonates.

And just for fun, here is a blue-sky prediction:

Emergence of SD-WWWWAN

Yep, WWWWAN. That's "white space white-box wireless WAN," and it is an exciting possibility that will be both driven and empowered by the growth of Internet of Things. It will operate on reclaimed UHF/VHF broadcast TV spectrum, with SDN-to-white box Wi-Fi access points providing the local mapping of what spectrum is available for DS-CDMA communications. SD-WWWWAN (how about SD4-WAN?) will bring higher speeds to more spaces in a number of models, ranging from traditional carrier service, to community project, to over-the-top (OTT) mesh networking as a service. SD-4WAN could make high-speed network access a reality in rural spaces and open the market for OTT services on all sorts of devices, from TVs to phones to cars.

Next Steps

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