5 Top Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Trends

In the beginning, hardware and software existed as largely separate entities. They were both needed to provide computing, networking, and storage. But they maintained a distance. 

Specific software was made to run on certain types of hardware. They were tied together to accomplish certain functions. Hence, software could run on platform A but couldn’t run on platform B. Or a version of an OS that ran well on an old laptop was no good on a newer machine. Software was developed and coded to operate on specific platforms.

See below to learn about how the relationship between hardware and software has grown and some of the trends driving the software-defined networking (SDN) market:

1. Software-defined solution

The concept of software-defined evolved as a way to decouple the software from the hardware. It enabled resources to be pooled together and managed by software. 

The development of software-defined architectures forever shifted the equation from buying hardware that would then run applications. It resulted in software grabbing the focus. Software became the center of IT solutions. Since then, many areas of the once vibrant hardware landscape have become commoditized. Servers, for example, no longer merit the same status they once did. 

Software-defined storage (SDS) was the first area to gain serious ground in the enterprise. More recently, software-defined networking (SDN) has caught on in a big way. And it is becoming an area of innovation. 

2. Vibrant market

Software-defined networks now generate plenty of business. Software providers offering SDN tools are doing well. 

This includes software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and a range of virtual networking security solutions. 

The demand for these software-defined services and tools is growing fast, according to Dell’Oro Group. Its analysts said anticipated revenues will generate more than half of $33 billion in total network security and services market revenue by 2026.

“Since the arrival of the first network security appliances in the 1980s, the network security market has been dominated by an assortment of purpose-built boxes, but we see a seismic shift taking place,” said Mauricio Sanchez, research director, network security, Dell’Oro Group. 

“Between enterprises embracing cloud applications and hybrid work as the new normal, we see them preferring SaaS- and virtual-based network security solutions that serve these use cases better.”  

3. Hardware appliances gradually fade  

Hardware sales were once the bread and butter of the networking space. A wide range of hardware appliances came on the market over the past decade to take care of various networking and network security duties. 

The glory days of the hardware appliance appear to be over. They won’t die off, as there are still clear use cases where they add value. But sales will slip gradually. 

“This is not to say that we see hardware security appliances disappearing, but they no longer represent the vanguard of network security they once were,” said Sanchez with Dell’Oro Group.

4. Network security options 

The rise of ransomware has many enterprise IT departments in a panic. They spend far too much of their day fighting the latest malware incursion or the repercussions of a user clicking on a phishing email link or attachment. They need help. 

SDN provides that assistance by offering more options to secure the enterprise, lock down the perimeter, and extend network security to the far edges of an employee base now splintered across disparate mobile connections. 

Big winners include SaaS- and virtual-based web application firewalls (WAFs), which play a vital role in shoring up cloud workload security. They are anticipated to experience a compounded annual growth (CAGR) of 25% between 2021 and 2026

“Driving the strong growth is the increased number of enterprise applications being made accessible on the internet to both friends and foe,” said Sanchez with Dell’Oro Group. 

He added that SaaS-based secure web gateways (SWGs) should have a CAGR of 23% over the same period, as hybrid work becomes the norm. In contrast, traditional physical firewall appliances, which used to dominate the network security sector, have a predicted growth rate of 7%. They will still have a place in the enterprise, but SDN is taking over. 

5. Software-defined perimeter 

The urgent need for better network security is being met by SDN-related tools. This has given rise to a new term, software-defined perimeter (SDP). 

Almost every organization has remote users and/or third parties who need to be able to connect to cloud or on-premises applications from wherever they are working. Traditional VPNs for remote users tend to be complex and expensive. Yet, they no longer offer the security peace of mind they once did. 

“An SDP enables users to build lightweight, scalable, and secure connections between on-premises, remote, edge, and/or cloud environments across Windows and Linux as well as extend these capabilities to IoT deployments,” said Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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