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The Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Market

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The software-defined networking (SDN) market has grown significantly in response to heightened industrial demand for flexible network infrastructure that accommodates cloud computing, edge computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

As more enterprise networks move toward software-defined networking, use cases continue to expand into new industries around the globe.

Read on to learn all about software-defined networking and how the technology is being used by enterprises:

A Closer Look at the SDN Market

See more on IoT networks: Internet of Things (IoT) Market Size & Forecast

The software-defined networking market

The global software-defined networking (SDN) market is growing at a rapid rate. After reaching about $9.2 billion in 2020, the market is expected to grow to $35.6 billion by 2026, according to a report from Expert Market Research.

The software-defined approach is not only growing at the local area network (LAN) level. Many enterprises and global entities are beginning to invest in software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) to keep up with the demand for improved bandwidth and performance in globally distributed working environments.

Learn more on Enterprise Networking Planet: 7 Enterprise Networking Trends to Watch

SDN elements

When network administrators decide they want to move to a software-defined network strategy, they must first choose the SDN model that best fits their needs. These four models are the most common:

  • Open SDN: enables open protocols to control the devices that route data packets on the network.
  • API-powered SDN: uses APIs and other programming interfaces to control how data moves from device to device on the network.
  • Overlay SDN: essentially overlays a virtual network on top of the existing traditional network’s hardware. With overlay SDN, virtual networks include tunnels that distribute performance bandwidth to grouped devices within each of the tunnel’s channels.
  • Hybrid SDN: takes existing traditional network protocols and merges them with an SDN approach. Although hybrid SDN is often considered a transitional step before a full move to SDN, some enterprise networks opt for this format indefinitely because of the ability to choose the best protocols from each model.

After selecting the right SDN model, an organization needs to invest in the components necessary for an SDN model:

  • Open-source networking protocol: Although open-source networking protocols aren’t always required for SDNs, they often help network administrators to program and direct network traffic. OpenFlow is the most commonly used networking protocol. 
  • Applications: Certain applications assist with identifying needed network information and alerting admins to resource requests based on location and availability.
  • Controllers: Often thought of as the primary dashboard for the SDN, controllers are used to communicate with SDN apps about the location and instructions for data packets. They act as the bridge between applications and networking devices on the SDN.
  • Networking devices: After receiving information from the controller about where data packets need to go, networking devices assist with the actual routing of packets.

Benefits of SDN


Security can become more granular and cloud-based through the SDN model. The central SDN controller makes it especially easy to visualize and plan network security from a single point.

Reduced costs

Because SDN does not rely on expensive legacy hardware and required updates, many SDN users find that they reduce their spending on hardware maintenance after their launch.

Cloud compatibility

A large number of organizations are moving to the cloud, which requires them to move away from their on-premises data center and much of their legacy hardware. When companies make the move to SDN and software-defined applications, it’s much easier to make the transition to cloud and edge computing.

More on cloud computing: Cloud Computing Market

Centralized network management

The software-defined approach makes it possible for network admins to visualize and manage network components from a dashboard. This single pane of glass makes it possible to handle network provisioning, performance management, and troubleshooting without as much digging into the network.

Routing flexibility

Networks constantly grow, shrink, and experience issues that require changes to routing. With a software-defined strategy, network traffic can be automatically rerouted to a different application due to connections between SDN controllers and networking devices. Routing flexibility is particularly important during an outage on the network.

SDN use cases

Network administrators move to SDNs for a variety of reasons, ranging from budgetary needs to security and compliance issues to changing workloads and workflows. 

Cisco and Juniper SDN solutions were used by customers for the following networking needs:

“The openness and flexibility of Cisco’s APIs for automating both the underlay and overlay networks was a critical factor in our choice of Cisco ACI. It allows us to integrate seamlessly with business workflows and incorporate technologies like OpenStack and Kubernetes, with full support from Cisco.” -senior manager for central network services at Bosch, review of Cisco ACI

“We are using Juniper Contrail, which helps us to provide end-to-end networking policy and control for any work items in cloud, workloads, or deployment, using a single user interface. We can apply and control end-to-end policies across physical and virtual environments. It is based on open source Tungsten Fabric, which enables us to securely deploy the work items.” -senior software engineer in the services industry, review of Juniper Contrail

SDN solution providers

Some companies specialize in one component of SDN, such as networking protocols, virtualization software, or the devices needed to route network data. 

However, several larger companies offer top networking solutions across SDN requirements:

Read next: Top 10 Enterprise Networking Companies

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