SDN: Who's the Market Leader (And Does It Matter)?

The VAR Guy's head is spinning. Just about every major networking company -- Brocade (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and more -- claims to lead the software-defined networking (SDN) market. That leadership either involves shipping products, overall vision or both. The big questions: Are customers really asking for SDN solutions, and do channel partners know how to sell and support them?

The chatter extends beyond SDN to software-defined storage (SDS) and software-defined datacenters (SDDC). VMware has bet its business on software-defined datacenters and will surely update the strategy during next week's Partner Exchange conference, one of The VAR Guy's Top 100 Channel Partner Events of 2013. Oh, and let's not forget about IBM's SDN strategy, which will surely pop up during the PartnerWorld conference -- another Top 100 event pick that's down the street from VMware's gathering.

SDN Acquisitions and Investments

The vendor moves don't end there. F5 Networks earlier this month acquired LineRate Systems, which develops SDN services. Oh, and Intel invested $6.5 million in SDN vendor Big Switch Networks. And Brocade acquired Vyatta in late 2012.

There's a lot of money chasing the SDN opportunity. But how many customers are buying SDN solutions? And how many channel partners are qualified to sell the offerings?

Actual Deployments?

VMware could provide key clues during its conference next week. The company's vCloud Suite is designed to help VARs prepare customers for software-defined datacenters. Channel Chief Toni Adams and his VMware peers say those partner efforts are well-underway.

Oh, and The VAR Guy almost forgot: Juniper made major SDN moves during its partner conference in January.  Juniper today unveiled new software and services enabling mobile service providers to march toward SDN.

And where does HP fit in all this? The company claims it has sold more than 150,000 virtual storage alliances over the past three or four years, making HP the early leader in SDS.

Keeping Score

So which vendor is leading the SDN revolution? Frankly, The VAR Guy isn't keeping score. But that three-letter acronym (along with its cousins, SDS and SDDC) seem to be earning plenty of headlines.
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