SDN finally starts to take off with service providers

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IHS Markit's research finds most service providers plan to deploy software-defined networking (SDN), but there's still a long way to go.

The survey found that many have started, but most are at “early stages of a long-term transition”.  While 100% of 23 service providers said they will deploy SDN at some point, more than three-quarters (78%) said they would have deployed or evaluated the architecture by the end of 2018, and 87% expect to have done so by the end of 2019.

Software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) lead the list of SDN-based services expected to generate new revenue, with 78% of respondents identifying this as a key deployment goal, while 48% plan to implement network slicing for IoT.

SDN wins


Automation and reduction of CapEx and OpEx are also among the core goals for SDN deployments. By the end of 2019, 74% of respondents said they will use SDN to automate the delivery of new services, followed by operations and management at 65%.

The work done to date has also highlighted some ongoing obstacles to commercial deployment, operators report. These include the issue of products that are not carrier-grade and difficulty with integration into existing networks.

New approaches

Michael Howard Senior Research Director, Carrier Networks, IHS Markit and author of the Carrier SDN Strategies Service Provider Survey said: “The majority of service providers are investing in SDN in order to simplify and automate the provisioning of their networks for end-to-end network and service management and control – with the goal of having a global view of network conditions across the various vendors’ equipment, network layers and technologies.

SDN figures in provider plans to generate revenue, with multi-cloud and network slicing for applications and IoT figuring more prominently this year.”

He added: “Still, carriers will learn that some avenues are not as fruitful as expected, and telecom equipment manufacturers and software suppliers may well invent new approaches that open up new applications.”