< back to overview

SDN to Reach New Heights

Sep 29, 2016
Rick Bauer
Rick Bauer About the author

SDN has seen great promise in the last five years. But where is SDN heading in the next four? Rick Bauer provides his insight in this blog post.  

Diem pngSDN has seen some great growth in the short five year time span. We are now seeing real-world deployments of SDN in a variety of networks, especially in the enterprise. A survey of over 460 IT professionals conducted by Channel Insider found that 28 percent of enterprises have some form of SDN, 21 percent plan to deploy SDN in the next two years, and 25 percent are considering SDN. While great progress has been made with SDN adoption in the last five years, it is poised to grow even more. Billions more, in fact. Research group IDC has projected that the worldwide SDN market will be worth $12.5 billion in 2020. That is an annual growth rate of 53.9 percent from 2014 to 2020. What is driving this growth over the next four years? Factors include:

Data Centers and the Physical Network

It is no secret that the data center and the physical network have benefited tremendously from the proliferation of SDN. Enterprises across the globe have been early adopters of SDN within their data centers and physical networks. During this time we have seen SDN play a pivotal role in the LAN, WAN, cloud, and, of course, data center. And for good reason too. SDN is being used in various parts of the physical network, improving network management, optimization, security, and wireless technology. The industry is already seeing considerable interest from operators to deploy SDN in their core transport networks. In the coming years, we will start to see smaller organizations gain access to SDN for use within their network infrastructure, mainly due to an increased industry focus toward open source software.


The software component of SDN is expected to see the biggest jump in growth in the market. This is something that ONF is seeing first-hand through our work with our open source SDN community, OpenSourceSDN.org. When it comes to software, the applications that can be built are endless. These applications can provide network operators with easy access to network improvements without having to completely rip and replace their hardware. They also provide a stepping stone to full-fledged SDN deployment for legacy networks. These software-based applications can provide increased management visibility and control, information models and intent-based networking, and unified communication quality of service (QoS) capabilities, just to name a few. Software will continue to play a major role in the adoption of SDN. ONF is invested in open source software and is one of the organizations leading the way with innovative projects to meet the changing needs of networks and network operators.


Increased mobile device connectivity will also be a main driver in fueling SDN’s growth. Over the last decade, consumers have accepted more mobile devices into their lives including tablets, smartphones, fitness trackers, and now wireless earbuds. These devices, along with many more that have emerged on the market, will continue to increase the need for telco operators to deploy SDN within their network infrastructure in order to keep up with bandwidth demands and QoS. The industry is also approaching the transition to 5G connectivity to increase bandwidth, services, and QoS with the influx of devices on the networks. The variety of these devices and applications being developed and deployed requires a highly flexible infrastructure with dynamically programmable behavior via software, which means SDN.

We are sure to see SDN expand beyond these three areas of networking and become standard operating procedure in every component of the network. Over the next four years, we anticipate SDN to scale upwards in existing deployments and have a significant impact on new and emerging SDN deployments.

- Rick Bauer, Interim Executive Director

Share this post:
Rick Bauer