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Charting the Path to Network Automation & Disaggregation: Carrier SDN Survey Analysis

Published by Heavy Reading Product code 604348
Published Content info 22 Pages
Delivery time: 1-2 business days
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Charting the Path to Network Automation & Disaggregation: Carrier SDN Survey Analysis
Published: February 14, 2018 Content info: 22 Pages

Since 2012, Heavy Reading has researched the application of software-defined networking (SDN) in carrier networks through global network operator surveys, one-on-one service provider interviews, and countless discussions and briefings with SDN software and hardware suppliers. With initial industry exuberance so high, it was inevitable that SDN would fail to live up to lofty expectations. In that context, today's environment of disenchantment - particularly for network functions virtualization (NFV), but also affecting SDN - should not be surprising.

But the SDN disenchantment storyline masks a timeline of true progress, evolution, and continued standardization. For one, the percentage of network operators reporting commercial SDN network implementations has doubled over the past 18 months. And, while SDN was inextricably coupled with NFV initiatives early on, we are now seeing SDN deployments accelerate independent of virtualization and NFV. Historically, major networking technology adoption trends have evolved over roughly ten years' time. Many believed that SDN would prove an exception and hit the mainstream faster, but perhaps not.

‘Charting the Path to Network Automation & Disaggregation: Carrier SDN Survey Analysis’ assesses the evolution of SDN in carrier networks through an in-depth survey of network operators around the globe. The survey-based project builds on an unparalleled wealth of operator data and insights gained from six years of extensive Heavy Reading primary research in this area. Building on our knowledge base and past survey work, we focus this SDN study on two critical areas: disaggregation in packet-optical networks and automation in the carrier wide-area network (WAN).

This research project is based on a Web-based survey of network operators worldwide, conducted in September 2017. Respondents were drawn from the network operator list of the Light Reading readership database. More than 180 people completed the survey; of that total, 142 were deemed qualified participants and were counted in the results. To qualify, respondents had to work for a verifiable network operator that generated at least $50 million in annual revenue.

In our survey, we wanted to understand why operators are deploying, or planning to deploy, SDN in their networks. The excerpt below shows SDN use cases according to the percentage that selected each as "high priority." We asked respondents to identify use case priorities in the next one- to three-year timeframe. Results show that many SDN use cases have high priorities, and automation is a key theme among them - whether it's across the WAN, across layers (such as IP and optical integration) or within the data center.

‘Charting the Path to Network Automation & Disaggregation: Carrier SDN Survey Analysis’ is published in PDF format.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


  • 1.1. Key Findings
  • 1.2. Methodology & Demographics
    • Figure 1: Respondents by Service Provider Type
    • Figure 2: Respondents by Geographic Region
    • Figure 3: Respondent Breakout by Company Annual Revenue
    • Figure 4: Respondents by Job Function
    • Figure 5: Respondent Involvement in Network Equipment Planning/Purchasing


  • Figure 6: Global Operator SDN Deployment Stage, 2017 Survey
  • Figure 7: Global Operator SDN Deployment Stage, 2016 Survey
  • Figure 8: Network Segments Ranked by Priority for SDN Implementation
  • Figure 9: Top-Priority SDN Use Cases


  • Figure 10: Value of Disaggregation in Next-Generation Network Plans
  • Figure 11: Most Important Network Functions for Disaggregation
  • Figure 12: Top Benefits of Disaggregation for Operators
  • Figure 13: Segments Expected to Benefit Most from Disaggregation
  • Figure 14: Disaggregated Network Architecture Challenges
  • Figure 15: Timeline for Deploying Disaggregated Networks


  • Figure 16: Importance of Multilayer IP & Optical Integration
  • Figure 17: Most Important Benefits of Multilayer IP & Optical Integration
  • Figure 18: Network Segments to Benefit Most From IP & Optical Integration
  • Figure 19: Biggest Barriers to IP & Optical Integration
  • Figure 20: Timelines for IP & Optical Integration Deployment


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