Software-Defined Networking (SDN) has become a hot topic of late, and with good reason. This technology has the potential to dramatically improve the configuration of networking solutions. Traditionally, data has been housed in a static fashion, with the development of network intelligence, focused on individual routers and switches. This is problematic with today's vast and ever-expanding data pool, with central automation of data management quickly becoming the ideal solution. SDN is an answer to this challenge, and a good one.

1. Big Switch

Big Switch Logo
Big Switch Logo

Big Switch is a major competitor in the SDN market, targeting larger firms like Cisco.They have been featured by the Economist and recognized by Network World. They are offering the first available open product suites focused on SDN. This suite is built upon Big Network Controller, and as such, it generates a common data model from which to build up. They utilize a three-tier architecture that includes northbound open APIs for app developers, an open-core controller, and southbound industry-standard data plan communication protocols. As a company, they are committed to remaining open-source as well, viewing it as an essential and key component to supporting a solid architecture that is responsive and innovative.

2. Brocade

Brocade company logo
Brocade Logo

Brocade is also pushing to get ahead of Cisco, something they made a play at most recently by purchasing Vyatta, a private company that was focused on network visualization and included SDN and cloud computing platforms, which Brocade can combine with its existing infrastructure. Since Brocade has been a strong and early supporter of OpenFlow, this merger has put them in a solid position to be an industry leader in SDN, particularly since the merger gives the company more agility to operate as it lowers costs while developing their products.

3. Cisco

Cisco company logo
Cisco Logo

Cisco isn't slouching in the race to claim the bigger prize in the SDN market. They recently spent $141 million to acquire Cariden, a company that focuses on network planning and optimization software for ISPs. This purchase lets Cisco gain access to a respected company that is well-versed in SDN, which allows Cisco to provide SDN to their core ISP customers. Overall, Cisco is downplaying their focus on SDN while carefully aligning themselves to be competitive as the technology spreads.

4. HP

Hewlett Packard company logo
HP Logo

HP is coming out swinging while developing their own SDN portfolio that they claim is the most complete package out of any vendor offering on the market. They have their own controller, 25 open-flow-enabled switches, and an assortment of applications. HBO and CERN are already established as beta customers for their SDN package. Future plans include allowing their clients to create their own isolated cloud networks within public clouds and additional applications developed specifically for its controller.

5. Juniper

Juniper Company Logo
Juniper Networks Logo

While Cisco and HP focus on larger clientele, Juniper is gunning for an alternative niche within the SDN market. They are positioning themselves to be a cornerstone within the open source SDN community, with the hopes of becoming equivalent to Linux and Apache within open source operating systems. To this end, they have partnered with other industry players in their production of an alternative SDN controller that can compete with Cisco and others. Their plan is to create a solid open source controller that becomes the standard, with a strategy that includes adding support for OpenFlow to some of their product line as the year advances. Juniper has also recently released their "four-step roadmap" to SDN with new software and services

6. VMware

VMware Company Logo
VMware Logo

This company is a clear leader in the field, and recent acquisitions have put them down as a strong contender against Cisco. With the purchase of Nicira, a company whose founders developed OpenFlow, VMware has gained powerful hardware that virtualizes data to split workload from hardware resources. This, combined with the previous acquisition of DynamicOps, puts them in a powerful position within the industry, running a knockout package of exceptional software and hardware, all whilst maintaining their already stellar reputation for high quality.

The bottom line is that SDN promises to be a disruptive force to the network market. Many hands are making a grab at market share by attempting to out-innovate and provide more than their challengers. The end result will be beneficial to potential consumers of SDN technology.

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