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December 16, 2015updated 23 Aug 2016 2:35pm

The story of SDN in 2015: Where the predictions stand today

Opinion: Paul Dignan, Field Systems Engineer at F5 Networks, looks at how Software Defined Networking delivered in 2015.

By Ellie Burns

Almost every technology product or innovation was started through the need to overcome a challenge. Networks have two purposes: the first is to set up connections based on a set of criteria in order to find the shortest, quickest and most secure path and the second is to transport the data across a path of those connections.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) helps to simplify the complexity in designing, deploying and maintaining modern-day networks by reducing the need for the layering within networks and allowing changes to be made to each layer without affecting the other. This might be useful when a faster physical technology is introduced, such as using fibre over copper, and the connection can be upgraded without affecting the higher layers.

Earlier this year, we saw a host of predictions made about SDN and what the market has in store for the year ahead. These ranged from big data analytics and an increase in overlays, to bolstered security and software defined everything. The technology capabilities are still not fully understood, but this encourages CIOs and CTOs to educate themselves on the benefits it can bring.

In a look back at what the experts said in January, we explore which of these trends have lived up to their expectations, and which are still very much in the development phase.

1. Big data analytics driven by the network: Earlier this year, it was clear that enterprise mobility was being driven by the demand to access data from any device, at any time. Mobile has also overtaken PC to become the top web search device. As a result, this year has been about maximising the user experience and delivering applications seamlessly through the cloud.

You only need to take a look at how much wearables have taken off this year to consider the growth in big data. The boom in fitness trackers, gaming and wearable tech in hospitals has caused an upsurge in the amount of data being collected, mined and repurposed.

2. OpenDaylight-based production: The first deployments were set to take place this year, and how did it fair? OpenDaylight (ODL) is a project that aims to help accelerate the development of technology available to users and enable widespread adoption of SDN.

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During the summit held in July, it was evident that Open SDN has been making tremendous progress in the industry. A survey carried out by the organisation revealed that 73% of organisations are either currently using ODL or plan to deploy in production within 12 months. Predictions around the success of ODL were indeed on the right track.

3. SDN in new markets: From retail and healthcare to hospitality, the growth of SDN in these markets was another prediction for this year. In 2014 we saw a growing number of universities adopting SDN and enjoying the benefits.

This year, however, that growth does not appear to have spiked or increased significantly. Furthermore, there hasn’t been a great detail of activity around the growth of SDN adoption in vertical markets. With the growth in applications and mobile devices only set to continue, providers will need to place more emphasis on the importance of SDN for each of these verticals, if they wish to continue evolving with new technologies and trends, without compromising the quality of the user experience.

It has been interesting to see how the above predictions, amongst others, have developed as the year has progressed. Technology trends won’t always experience growth in all areas, but it’s clear that SDN is becoming more widespread. The SDN market will also grow further in the years to come, driven by trends like mobility, cloud computing and big data. Just make sure your network is ready.

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