2017 looks to be a promising year for software-defined networking (SDN) enthusiasts. According to recent research by IDC, the worldwide SDN market is expected to grow to $12.5 billion by 2020. This includes physical network infrastructure, control software, SDN applications, and last but not least professional services.

Software-defined networking gained good traction in 2016, and the upward trend seems set to continue in 2017 as well. Its innovative architectural model and ability to deliver a lot of critical networking services like automated provisioning, network virtualization, and network programmability has helped it win adoption in datacenters and enterprises.

The world of software-defined networking is still evolving. We should expect to see some changes in the SDN space in the coming year. Some of the changes which I can think of are listed below.

New players will jump into the SDN development space
I believe there is still plenty of scope for improvement in the SDN space; companies can still chase that “Wow” factor. Although this field is crowded, we can expect some new entrants in the market aimed at enterprise SDN. Since this space is all about software now, there won’t be any major barriers for either startups or established firms. I do not expect Fortune 500 companies to enter this domain, but some small players in the network monitoring and management space may take the plunge.

Broad adoption of NFV at the carrier edge
NFV provides flexibility to virtualized networks. It has huge potential to reduce cost while increasing revenue and agility. But the most important requirement to achieve this flexibility is that it requires SDN underneath. NFV helps enterprise users in reducing the risk associated with trying new services, and it also reduces wait time for spinning up new services.

New SD-WAN offerings
Many existing companies and new entrants in the SD-WAN space like CloudGenix and VeloCloud have matured rapidly. Smaller players like Riverbed and Talari continue to grow. It’s unlikely we will see a new player in this domain, but we will surely see the blossoming of SD-WAN offerings from carriers.

SDN is gaining traction in the enterprise. Instead of asking “Why SDN?” some mainstream enterprises have started asking “Why not SDN?”. Although it is early to say, I believe enterprise SDN will change the face of the networking industry. According to research, majority of small and medium-sized businesses plan to implement SDN in the datacenter in the next two years. More than 60% confirmed that they will conduct or launch SDN lab trials by the end of 2017.

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