Blog post

Networking Hype Cycle 2016

By Andrew Lerner | July 28, 2016 | 2 Comments

WANSDNSD-WANNetworkingJust Published

ICYMI (perhaps you were tracking down the Squirtle Squad), we just published the 2016 Networking Hype Cycle. 2016 has indeed been the year of SDWAN, which now sits atop the peak of inflated expectations, joining prior year’s peak technologies such as NAC (2006), IPv6 (2007), SDN (2013), and Cloud-Managed LANs (2015).


The Hype Cycle is a foundational piece of research which tracks and analyzes 39 of the most important emerging networking technologies. While we recognize that legacy still does run much of the world), it is important to look at emerging and early mainstream technologies. Here’s a snippet from the research about SDWAN:

At two years old, the SD-WAN concept is emerging rapidly, and we estimate that between 500 and 1,000 organizations have purchased and are deploying SD-WAN products. Many of today’s SD-WAN deployments have been in large, distributed North American enterprises (including retail and financial services). Enterprises are in various stages of piloting or implementing larger production deployments of as many as several thousand sites. More than a dozen network vendors offer SD-WAN edge devices, whereas carriers and MSPs are rapidly incorporating “managed SD-WAN” into their service offerings. Gartner expects a continued rapid evolution, because the benefits to the enterprise are significant, with adoption at least doubling each year, for the next three years.

Note:  We did not include Cisco Meraki MX in that count, as their path selection features were in BETA at the time

The Trough

2013’s peak technology, SDN is firmly entrenched in the trough of disillusionment, along with NCCM. Here’s a snippet regarding SDN’s positioning:

During 2015, we started to see production adoption of SDN solutions, though broad deployments are still relatively rare. A variety of both established vendors and startups continue to develop SDN technologies, but full, robust, end-to-end enterprise-ready solutions are not yet fully established on the market.

Up and Coming…

There are lot of up-and-coming technologies yet to the peak but gaining interest including OpenConfigcontainer networking, OpenCompute networking and Brite-Box, etc. Here’s a snippet from the OpenConfig writeup:

OpenConfig is a working group primarily comprising network operators that are developing open-source software, based on YANG data models to be consumed via APIs. The consortium’s goal is to improve management of heterogenous network infrastructure in a vendor-agnostic way. OpenConfig participation is driven by the buying community, not the vendor community or standards bodies, with contributions from Google, AT&T, Microsoft, BT, Facebook, Comcast, Verizon, Level3 Communications, Cox Communications, Yahoo, Apple, Bell Canada and others.

OpenConfig is an early-stage technology but carries a high degree of promise as it has some prominent contributors, including Google. To date, there is limited but growing support for OpenConfig APIs within mainstream networking vendors, with Cisco, Juniper Networks and Arista Networks providing native support in some of their products. By the end of 2018, we anticipate that most networking vendors that sell to large operators will support OpenConfig. Thus, we anticipate early adoption in large providers (including network operators and cloud providers) within the next three years. However, we do not anticipate OpenConfig gaining adoption in mainstream enterprises within the next three years.

Climbing the Slope of Enlightenment

Rising Up the Slope are emerging mainstream technologies like Ethernet Switching Fabrics:  By Gartner’s estimation, there were more than 14,000 deployment cases worldwide by the end of 2015…. Ethernet fabric is becoming one of the major choices when end users modernize their data center network to adopt cloud computing and virtualization automation technologies.

Here’s a link to the research (paywall)

Hype Cycle for Networking and Communications, 2016

Summary: Enterprises must modernize their networks to support new projects such as digital business, IoT and mobility. These spur increasing demand for real-time applications and cloud services. As a result, Gartner assessed network technologies that are necessary to support seven enterprise initiatives.

regards, Andrew

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Andrew: Any chance that we can show just the Hype Cycle chart for networking at a major event for Open Networking Foundation in September? We would cite and give Gartner credit, and a link to purchase the entire report for our 150+ members.

  • Andrew Lerner says:

    Rick, I’ve forwarded your request to those can authorize it.