Blog post

The State of SDN Adoption…

By Andrew Lerner | June 16, 2014 | 4 Comments


We ran an SDN session at last week’s Gartner IOM conference in Orlando, and asked the audience “Where are you with respect to SDN?“.  I combined the results with similar previous sessions and the results are below (n=113).



Not surprisingly, there is still mostly just tire-kicking of SDN in the mainstream, with very limited adoption outside of hyperscale and service provider organizations. Based on the past several months of interactions with Gartner clients, here are several observations.

  1. The hyperscale guys are doing SDN, while the Telcos/Service Providers are starting to get into it (piloting and limited production).
  2. In addition to hyperscales and SPs, the “forward leans” (early adopters of technology like Universities and High-Tech organizations) are also getting into it, in a similar fashion to the Telcos/Service Providers (pilots and trial implementations).
  3. There is still a lot of skepticism around SDN from mainstream enterprise, particularly from networking folks who have heavily influence on networking decisions and budget.  The questions are along the lines of Why do I need this, what does it really do for me? and My vendors tell me this solves world hunger but we’ve heard that story before with Wan Optimization and fabrics …
  4. However, the non-networking folks from these same mainstream organizations think SDN (and the programmability/agility it promises) is long overdue.  These folks ask: “Why does it take so long to get network changes made?”.

Over the next year we should see a lot more lab testing, pilots and some limited production deployments in the mainstream, as the thinkers move to tinkerers, who are being nudged along due to a) availability of product and b) increased marketing from the likes of VMware and Cisco. And we have some statistics on that as well…

  • At the same IOM session, we asked “When do you plan to deploy SDN in production?” and 19% answered within 1 year and another 9% within 2 years.  So nearly a third (28%) plan to do something with respect to SDN in the next two years. Side note:  Hopefully not the same 27% who answered “What is SDN?
  • Based on a separate data center facilities research survey (n=513), “network virtualization” (which is a decent proxy for SDN) is the #4 planned technology investment in 2014, with 25% of respondents citing it as a top 3 initiative.

For those organizations moving towards SDN, we have a good amount of published research in the SDN space. If you’re wondering What is SDN?  check out:

If you’re one of those merely Thinking about SDN, check out:

And if you’re currently Evaluating in Non-Production, check out:

Lastly, if you have deployed in production, we want to know!

Regards, Andrew

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  • You said “However, the non-networking folks from these same mainstream organizations think SDN (and the programmability/agility it promises) is long overdue.”

    That’s really insightful — perhaps Line of Business leaders will drive the shift to SDN, in the same way that they were the primary catalyst for cloud services adoption in the enterprise.

  • Andrew Lerner says:

    David – good point. In my opinion, it will be two key factors.

    1. As you stated, the LOB will be pushing Corporate IT to deliver services faster and
    2. Vendors aggressively marketing their newer “more agile” offerings leading to mainstream acceptance of a fundamentally new way to do networking.

    These two factors should coalesce nicely over the next 12-24 and lead to increased interest/adoption.

  • Abbas Abidi says:

    Andrew, what was the mix of the audience for this poll – service providers, enterprise, public sector, etc?

  • Andrew Lerner says:

    Sorry Abbas, I don’t have the demographics breakdown. Typical Gartner conference attendees include enterprise senior IT leaders (CIO, CTO, VP I&O and their direct reports) as well as investors and the vendor community. I would guess that of the 3 verticals you called out (SP, Ent, PS), enterprise was the highest % represented.

    Regards, Andrew