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Key Traits of Top Software Defined Networking Companies

August 11, 2017

When considering software defined networking companies, you want to be sure to choose the right vendor that can provide an SDN platform that can adapt with your needs. Considering how new SDN is there are still different vendors, both established networking companies and start-ups, with different SDN approaches. You want to make sure you pick an SDN company with the right traits that suit your enterprise.

The SDN market is expected to reach $3.53 billion by 2018 according to Transparency Market Research at a compound annual growth rate of 61.5 percent. Enterprise networks make up about 35 percent of the market, so enterprise customers are clearly seeking to ally themselves with the right software defined networking companies; companies that provide a solid framework that will integrate with their existing network while providing an open architecture to accommodate future growth.

When considering software defined networking companies, you have to start by asking what kind of approach the vendor applies to SDN. Many companies use the traditional SDN approach, separating the control and data planes from the network and using a centralized SDN Controller to manage network data paths. Other vendors, however, use different approaches, such as software overlays that include hypervisors or virtual switches to manage network traffic.

So what do you look for when assessing software defined networking companies? Here are some traits to look for:

1. They partner with the right vendors.

Developing a comprehensive network programming strategy that can handle network traffic at OSI layers 1 through 7 is a monumental task, which is why most software defined networking companies only use layers 3 through 5 to abstract the control plane and the data plane. To better understand how their SDN platform will work in your enterprise, know who they are working with and where you can be sure their SDN controller technology is compatible.

2. They support the right SDN applications.

Since SDN is a new area, many software defined vendors are offering turnkey SDN products, including their own applications. Others are providing developer tools. If you are looking to use SDN to solve a specific problem, the vendor you choose should support the applications you need, either with their own solution or with the right set of tools.

3. They have a proven track record.

Since SDN is so new, a lot of the promise of software defined networking has yet to be demonstrated. The best software defined networking companies have use cases and happy reference customers who are already using their SDN platform.

4. They support OpenFlow at scale.

OpenFlow is currently the de facto standard for SDN, providing a vendor-neutral means of describing network traffic flow. However, many switch vendors are struggling to integrate OpenFlow into their hardware. A number of switch vendors are developing ASICs to handle OpenFlow for their hardware, but silicon development takes time and only the market leaders can handle SDN in their hardware today.

5. They look beyond OpenFlow.

The whole purpose of SDN is to provide central programming for the network, but not all hardware is compatible with OpenFlow. The best software defined networking companies also can use remote configuration tools, like SNMP, to manage remote devices that aren’t OpenFlow compatible.

6. They have a proven integration strategy with existing networks.

The best software defined networking companies have an established methodology to bring SDN up and running alongside the existing enterprise. The most common approaches are hybrid switches or SDN islands that act as a bridge to the legacy enterprise infrastructure.

7. They provide superior SDN support.

SDN provides new support challenges to both customer and vendors. There are many ways that the enterprise user can use SDN to create problems beyond the control of SDN vendors. The best software defined networking companies will provide training and support to help customers deploy SDN. They also will create clear boundaries about what will and won’t be supported in third-party technology or home-growth applications.

8. They maintain an open SDN framework.

Although the Open Networking Foundation is striving to keep software defined networking as an open platform, there are no real standards as yet and interoperability can be an issue. The best software defined networking companies are promoting interoperability and open networking, giving their customers more options as SDN continues to evolve.

In many ways, SDN is still uncharted territory, so when choosing software defined networking companies, you want to find partners who can work with you to stay connected, not a vendor who will lead you astray with a proprietary dead end. Seek out vendors who understand software defined networking and maintain an open SDN framework and flexible integration strategies.

What is your primary criteria when choosing a software defined networking partner?