A very informative book, Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey Moore, describes how companies can survive and ideally leverage hyper-growth markets. While Software Defined Networking (SDN) is not yet in hyper-growth mode, there are powerful forces accelerating its overall velocity in the market. While each force exerts its own influence, it also increases the impact of other forces as shown in the figure.
Three forces acting to accelerate the SDN market are Virtualization, the “Snowden Effect”, and Open Source. While other forces are no doubt in operation, these three are notable not only for their standalone impact but also for synergies with each other.
Virtualization has moved from a minority share to edging out bare metal workloads. According to Gartner (as quoted in Data Center Post[i]), virtualized server workloads are now over 50%, growing to 86% in 2016. Yet, virtualization highlights the technical challenges of legacy networks. While virtual machines theoretically can be cloned and moved in moments, in practice moving a VM involves extensive manual networking configuration (such as assigning an IP address and firewall settings). Increasingly, SDN technologies are being utilized to address these networking limitations.
The second accelerator, Open Source, has moved from a “Freedom from legacy vendors” to “Eating the Software World” position. The LINUX foundation, as quoted in PCWorld[ii] , estimates that there are over 1 million unique Open Source projects! Further, the top motivator for Open Source adoption changed from “Freedom from Vendor Lock-in” in 2011 and 2012 to “Better Quality Software” in 2013. As a proof point, Clouds based on Open Source projects such as OpenStack are already implemented at very large enterprises and service providers such as OVH, the third largest cloud hosting provider worldwide. SDN, whether provided by an Open Source effort such as the OpenStack Neutron project or from a vendor, then becomes a priority.
The third accelerator is the “Snowden Effect”. This factor is being felt at both enterprise and governmental levels. A Huffington Post article about eight major impacts of the Snowden leak included the following effect upon the technology industry – “4. Tech companies finally got serious about privacy.”[iii] This change of heart is at least partially due to enterprise and consumer security concerns. At an enterprise level, IT organizations are pinned between end user preference for public clouds from industry titans and security needs. Once the IT organization disallows use of a public cloud, then they are challenged to create a private cloud with the functionality and flexibility of public clouds. And, the components utilized must provide security from all angles, including of course the network. This effect is accelerating not only private cloud architectures but also SDN’s role within private clouds.
In addition to the Snowden leaks, other revelations about global, widespread, and technology-based spying from various governments have caused entire nations to re-evaluate public cloud approaches. As an example in France, Numergy was created to be a public cloud that will keep all data stored on French soil[iv].
Accelerators Also Synergize
So, each force acts to accelerate SDN in its own way. But, each force also synergizes the impact of the others. Starting with Open Source, it accelerates the impact of Virtualization. Server virtualization’s success illustrates that software can be used to tackle problems that were formerly relegated to special-purpose hardware. As a result of more and more environments becoming virtualized, then more Open Source approaches can be implemented. For example, OpenStack is now driving more Virtualization approaches at the network and storage levels.
In its turn, Virtualization accelerates Security. As Virtualization becomes more prevalent, not only do existing security issues become highlighted but also new security issues arise. For example, traffic flowing between Hypervisor-based vSwitches is vulnerable to snooping[v]. This new set of vulnerabilities is giving rise to a number of new and innovative security approaches that rely on SDN for connectivity and management.
Lastly, Security accelerates the impact of Open Source. Putting aside many myths about Open Source security exposures, there are many valid, new security issues that arise from leveraging Open Source projects[vi]. In fact, these issues are part of the rationale why Facebook is open sourcing its newly developed OSquery security framework![vii]
With these major market forces accelerating SDN adoption standalone and in tandem, it’s extremely likely that the SDN market will experience a hyper-growth phase. When that happens, the IDC estimate of an $8 B SDN market by 2018[viii] may end up being exceeded!