Networking Professionals Want Open Source SDN

When it comes to Software Defined Networking (SDN), does open source matter? According to a new study released this week, it certainly does.

The study was sponsored by the Linux Foundation’s OpenDaylight collaborative OpenDaylightproject, an open source SDN effort.

From a deployment perspective, over half of the study’s 600 respondents indicated that they have plans to deploy SDN and NFV in 2014. The OpenDaylight study stands in sharp contrast to a study released at the end of 2013 by QuinStreet Enterprise, publisher of this site, which found that only 15 percent of organizations plan to deploy SDN in 2014.

The OpenDaylight-sponsored study also found that 95 percent of the study’s respondents want their SDN and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technology to include open source.

Neela Jacques, executive director of the OpenDaylight Project, told Enterprise Networking Planet that what struck him most about the study is that the majority of respondents want open source in their SDN/NFV solutions to avoid vendor lock-in. That said, 76 percent of those people prefer to consume open source through commercial vendors.

“If you’d asked me to take a guess before the survey, I would have thought there would be more people at the extremes,” Jacques said. “I expected there would be more folks saying they aren’t interested in open source and more people wanting pure open source.”

Jacques added that it’s clear that today people truly want open source that is vendor supported.


SDN and NFV are both terms often thrown around by vendors, with different meanings depending on the vendor. Jacques noted that Gigaom Research conducted the study and provided respondents with some very clear definitions of SDN and NFV.

Software-defined networking (SDN) – An approach to networking that is characterized by a decoupling of control and forwarding functions, enabling simplified operations, heightened automation, improved resource efficiency, and on-demand network programmability.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) – The deployment and delivery of networking services via software systems executing as server-based processes. These server-based software systems serve as direct replacements for traditional physical networking appliances (e.g., WAN optimization) and devices (e.g., routers).

SDN Applications

SDN isn’t just about an abstract networking concept. It’s also reflected in the specific types of applications that networking administrators want to deploy. Network Optimization is the top SDN application that study respondents want to deploy, coming in at 60 percent. Jacques explained that network optimization functions include application delivery controllers and WAN optimization.

57 percent of respondents identified security services a key SDN application, while 56 percent identified networking monitoring and 54 percent said network automation. Rounding out the list of top SDN applications is policy management at 47 percent.

SDN Challenges

There are some challenges when it comes to SDN deployments as well. Jacques noted that the OpenDaylight study found four key challenges:

1-Possible risks (e.g., failures) outweigh potential rewards (e.g., savings) 58%
2-Difficulty of migrating existing network infrastructure 56%
3-Shortcomings of industry standards and open systems 49%
4-Increased operational and deployment complexity 47%

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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