For the moment software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) technology appear to be occupying that most precarious position on the infamous hype curve – where fervent expectations have peaked and the slow downward descent into reality has kicked in.
So far, we have seen enterprises, telcos and service providers either pilots or small deployments purposely designed to give them a better idea of SDN and NFV capabilities and to what extent they can be integrated alongside existing network architecture. But large scale commercial deployments remain few and far between, a good example coming from US telco AT&T which has laid out plans to ultimately virtualise 75% of its entire network but which does not expect to have completed more than 5% by the end of 2015.
Similarly research company IHS predicts whilst 35% of telcos will deploy NFV in some form during 2015, another 48% are yet to evaluate the technology and most are at the start of 10-15 year transformation projects. The potential is there to be realised and there seems little doubt that carriers and service providers will get there – IHS estimates that the global market for SDN software alone could be worth $5.7bn in 2019, up from the rather more modest $103m spent in 2014, with NFV topping $11.6bn up from $2.3bn in 2015.
Elsewhere an NTT Com executive described enterprise customer reception to SDN/NFV orientated products as being ‘quite varied’ depending on their business case and ‘technology emphasis’, marking the inevitable gulf in enthusiasm between a few early adopters and the greater mass of more conservative buyers who prefer to take their time over technology selection and deployment.
In the meantime, we should expect a small but steady trickle of contract wins which may eventually become more of a torrent – recent example comes from Spanish incumbent Telefónica which recently agreed to deploy Juniper SDN ready MX Series edge routers, du embarking on its first test of vCPE in Saudi Arabia, and China Mobile using SDN as the foundation of a private cloud architecture.
Written by Martin Courtney for Axians UK