There is a lot of buzz around Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) in the industry, especially in the Telecommunications and Enterprise segment. These technologies represent a tectonic shift from hardware to software of network functions and networking systems control. Success of IT virtualization has made the networking industry to take notice and consider network virtualization. Similarly, the promise of programmable control over the network, in addition to the Capex savings and other advantages, has spurred the considerations for SDN adoption.
According to the latest report from market research firm Infonetics Research , SDN and NFV software are projected to make up three-quarters of total SDN/NFV revenue in 2018. Global carrier SDN / NFV revenue will come from products that are new, displaced (e.g. NFV infrastructure), and from existing market segments. In numbers, the global service provider SDN & NFV market, in hardware and software, is projected to reach $11 million in 2018. IDC predicts  that the next two years will be significant w.r.t. adoption of SDN in the Enterprise segment and the global SDN market is set to grow to more than $8 billion by 2018. A report from SNS Research predicts that the service provider centric NFV and SDN investments will reach nearly $21 Billion by 2020. Overall, there is lot of optimism in the market about adoption of SDN & NFV.
The industry optimism is not unfounded. Service providers and vendors are taking a collaborative approach to develop these technologies. Telecom network operators led Network Functions Industry Specification Group (NFV ISG) was established under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in 2012  to drive NFV specifications. Since then this group has published its first set of specifications for industry guidance  and established liasioning with other industry standards development groups such as the TMForum, IEEE and others. On the SDN front, open networking foundation (ONF)  has taken lead in promotion and adoption of SDN through development of open standards such as OpenFlow. The TMForum has been working on the ZOOM (Zero-touch Orchestration, Operations and Management program  to create a blueprint for a new generation of service provider support systems. The industry is not just satisfied with the specification work and is trying to foster an environment of collaborative implementation. The Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) , a new open source project focused on accelerating NFV's evolution through an integrated and open platform, is an effort in this direction.
While there have been efforts to drive the specifications and collaboration work, some early adopters have already embraced the technology. In North America, AT&T has announced its goal to virtualize and control more than 75 percent of its network using a software-driven architecture by 2020 . In Europe, Telefonica has unveiled a network infrastructure initiative, dubbed UNICA, which will allow it to have more than 30 per cent of new infrastructure virtualized by 2016 . In the APAC region, Telstra is planning to introduce SDN and NFV capabilities into its core network . These are only representational cases of adoption of SDN & NFV by the Telco industry. Similarly, large Enterprises and Cloud Service Providers have also started adopting these technologies as well. The Cable industry is also keenly following the impact of these technologies. Overall there is a great deal of momentum in the market w.r.t. SDN & NFV.
Going ahead the work continues. The ETSI NFV ISG is now working on phase 2 of its specifications work. The ONF continues its work on the North Bound interfaces (NBI) and other efforts. The industry has already started to talk about SDN / NFV DevOps. While the work happening is promising, challenges in do exist. How do you work out a business case? Are the intangible benefits alluring enough? What all needs to undergo change – Resource skills? Mindset change ? Design, Build & Operations ? So, will SDN & NFV go mainstream in near future? Let’s wait and watch! Rather, lets contribute and engage!