Gartner Blog Network

Four Things That Changed Networking in 2014

by Andrew Lerner  |  December 16, 2014  |  2 Comments

The networking industry saw several interesting twists and turns in 2014, and here’s my cut at the top four (and related research).  The true impact of these are much more longer-term in nature, and we’ll see them play out over the next several years.

#1 – Switching Disaggregation Catches on

Dell opened 2014 by announcing support to run Cumulus software on its switches, and later followed up with support for Big Switch software also. Juniper ended the year by announcing an OCP-compliant switch that runs JUNOS on white-box hardware.  We are referring to this as “brite-box” switching and we anticipate there are several more mainstream vendors to follow suit. Related Research:

The Future of Data Center Network Switches Looks ‘Brite’ ,

#2 – SDN trickles into the mainstream

It is still very early days for SDN, but we are seeing a ton of interest and some tire kicking in the mainstream, and here are the results from audience polling at our recent data center conference versus last year.

Where is your company regarding SDN? Audience Polling at Gartner Data Center Conference
2013 2014 Delta
Thinking about SDN 57% 59% 2%
Evaluating SDN in non-production environment 18% 14% -5%
Limited production deployment 5% 5% 0%
Significant deployment in production 0% 10% 10%
What is SDN? 20% 12% -8%
n=65  n=138

Despite the small sample size and selective audience, there are some trends to take away from this. I certainly don’t think 10% of the mainstream are doing SDN, in fact, I would estimate it is well under 1%. There are still less than 1000 mainstream deployments (SDN still trails Frame Relay in terms of paying customers). However this does show a slow/steady migration from lab evaluations towards production trials, and that more folks are familiar with the concept. Related Research:

Mainstream Organizations Should Prepare for SDN Now,

SDN Delivers Real-World Benefits in Mainstream Enterprises,

Ask Your SDN Vendor Seven Key Questions Before You Buy,

#3 – SDN hits the WAN

There’s certainly a need for improvements in the WAN and several vendors have applied SDN concepts to directly attack pain-points such as cost, complexity and performance. Several start-ups emerged including Viptela, CloudGenix, and Velocloud. In addition, Nuage extended their data center SDN solution to the WAN, while SilverPeak launched Unity which is based on SDN principals. Look for research coming in 2015 on this topic.

 #4 – Cisco ships ACI

Cisco is by far the largest networking vendor, and carries an enormous amount of mainstream influence. Thus, when Cisco does something it immediately warrants attention. In 2014, Cisco started shipping its new flagship data Center networking product, ACI. In a webcast last week, Cisco stated there are over 900 customers running Nexus 9k switches and 200 that have purchased the APIC controller.

 …and some Honorable Mentions

Looking for more? – Check out Marcia Savage’s (@marciasavage) list at Network Computing for their list of 2014 Networking Highlights/Lowlights

Regards and Happy Holidays/New Year


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Category: networking  sd-wan  sdn  wan  

Tags: aci  apic  big-switch  brite-box  brocade  cisco  cloudgenix  cumulus  dell  extreme  hp  juniper  nsx  nuage  ocp  opendaylight  silver-peak  velocloud  viptela  vmware  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Four Things That Changed Networking in 2014

  1. Ali Kafel says:

    Hi Andrew- Have always enjoyed reading your articles. Good to see that there are some SDN solutions in production. Two questions/comments

    1. Did the respondents understand the definition of SDN? In other words did it need to be an open standard (like OpenFlow) between the controller and the data plane or could a proprietary protocol suffice?
    2. How about NFV? As you know, the Telcos are talking as much about NFV as SDN (if not more) and some see it as the big brother or sister of SDN. In other words, the need to virtualize network functions be it Firewall, DPI, DDoS, etc is as much an Enterprise need as it is Telco. Why aren’t the Enterprises as interested in NFV as they are about SDN?

    Happy Holidays,
    Ali Kafel

    • Andrew Lerner says:

      Hi Ali, thanks for reading and commenting.

      1 – The results are from 2 separate sessions. In one session, we first provided Gartner’s definition/taxonomy of SDN first. In the other session, the question came after the definition. That said, I think the safe answer is “kinda”. Based on interactions at the conferences, I would say 50% to 75% of attendees have a solid foundation for what SDN is (and isn’t). This is contrast to 2013, when it was more around 25% to 50%.

      2 – The enterprise is very interested in NFV, however they often don’t refer to it as NFV. They often just refer to it as virtualization. For example, we see a lot of virtual ADCs being deployed now (probably around 20-30% of organizations now buy some degree of virtual ADCs), but people are not referring to this as an NFV-based ADC deployment. They are saying: Hey, we’re using vADCs in dev/test/lab because it is more cost-effective and flexible.

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