Remember the Y2K Scare?  Pundits predicted that precisely at the stroke of midnight (adjusted for time zones of course) all IT-related services would cease. Power companies would shut down, financial markets would go dark and planes would fall from the sky!

To prevent this epic catastrophe, millions of dollars were pumped into software remedies that vowed to find and adjust that bit of elusive, ancient, code put in place by our IT forefathers. The problem arose because programmers often abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits, making year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. Fueled by fear, doubt, and uncertainty, the Y2K scare turned out to be a mere inconvenience for some organizations and a big IT hangover for others on New Year’s Day.

Here Comes Software Defined Networking

Fast forward to 2015. Now we are faced with the hype of Software Defined Networks (SDN). But is SDN really going to happen or take the path of Y2K?

Most of chatter and-prognostication-in favor of SDN is coming from vendors, rather than enterprise organizations. IT personnel at enterprise organizations are taking a “wait and see” attitude toward SDN, airing on the side of “probable importance” but not “urgent need.” This is a common occurrence and very similar to the path virtualization first took.

IT administrators first cut their teeth on virtualization by testing it out in development labs. Once a comfort level was established and business benefits documented, virtualization took off fast! Its quick adoption rate was predicated on the fact that customers did not have to spend a considerable amount of money to test virtualization prior to installation; IT personnel just needed to purchase a few servers. If the experiment did not work out, administrators could just pivot to repurpose the servers -- e.g. no investment losses. The only organizations that typically can afford to test, rip and replace are telecommunication companies--typically the first new technology adopters in volume.

Virtualization quickly found its place, and there was an easy transition: first VMware, then came Citrix and now the market has many viable options. However, SDN is a bit different.

The SDN Waiting Game

If SDN does not perform well in the lab environment, there is a much greater cost/time commitment associated with it: OpenFlow vSwitches, VM nodes, Hypervisors, etc. Therefore, SDN is becoming more of a waiting game since there are no compelling deadline events (like Y2K) to prompt quick adoption. The current data center hardware is operating just fine and will continue to do so. Because of this attitude more urgent IT matters will continue to come first, such as:

  • · Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)
  • · Budget compute
  • · Storage (flash for service providers)
  • · Security
  • · IT staffing
  • · Adoption of virtualization in cloud

It’s also harder for IT administrators to make decisions because the SDN providers are not talking to each other and standards seem to be a distant goal. The vendors that come out with agnostic devices which seamlessly work together (Microsoft, Cisco, Juniper, etc.) will see quicker revenue streams. However, the adoption of new IT has always followed the same path fueled by demand.
By 2017, companies will gain their comfort level with many vendors, and SDN will find its stride within data centers, enterprise organizations and telcos. For now, SDN will remain fashionable, but not to the extent that the acronym will be emboldened on a tee-shirt the same way as Y2K…”I survived Y2K!”

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