data centerSoftware-defined networking (SDN) is well on the way to achieving ubiquity among network carriers, according to IHS Markit’s fourth annual carrier SDN survey.

Three-quarters of survey respondents said their organizations already had deployed or will deploy SDN in 2016. One-hundred percent said they intend to deploy SDN at some point, IHS Markit Senior Research Director, Carrier Michael Howard highlights in a research note.

Deploying SDN is a key facet of carriers’ efforts to automate their networks and transform internal operational processes and delivery of services, as well as their information and communications technology (ICT) platforms. By doing so, they expect to simplify network operations, including service provisioning and support.

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Carriers are taking a gradualist, incremental approach in deploying SDN in ¨contained domains,¨ according to Howard. At this stage, most carriers are progressing from evaluating ¨proof of concept¨ projects to deploying SDN in their commercial network architecture. This second phase is being carried out this year and will extend throughout 2017.

Carrier SDN Survey
That said, carriers intend to deploy SDN broadly in most parts of their networks. Deployments will be focused within data centers, between data centers and providing access for businesses between today and the end of 2017.

All in all, it will be many years before SDN is used to control large parts of, or entire networks, Howard notes. Among others, leading adopters include AT&T, Level 3, Colt, Orange Business Systems, SK Telekom and Telefónica.

AT&T considers its ECOMP technology as a key to realizing not only its own ambitious SDN plans; the carrier also hopes ECOMP will be accepted as an industry standard. Management recently announced that it will promote ECOMP industry-wide as a means of spurring development of an ecosystem of SDN products and services.

SDN adoption is progressing hand in hand with evaluation and deployment of network functions virtualization (NFV). Key drivers and barriers to broader commercial use have become more clear as carriers gather and analyze the results.

Lack of carrier-grade products and integration of virtual networking into their existing physical networks were the top two barriers cited by respondents to the IHS Markit survey. Virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) managed services was rated at the top SDN/NFV application when it comes to producing new sources of revenue.

Other applications are proving not to be as beneficial as expected, which may lead telecom equipment manufacturers and software suppliers to come up with new approaches that open up new applications, Howard writes. That’s something IHS Markit intends to keep a sharp eye out for as it conducts its fifth annual SDN survey in 2017, he adds.

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