By separating the control plane from the data plane, Software Defined Networking (SDN) solutions not only offer load-balancing over network hardware switches and routers, they open the possibility for new network management features that have not been feasible on the lower-powered CPUs built into the network hardware.
The price point of the network hardware has demanded the use of CPUs usually only powerful enough to handle the loads of the data plane. By offering a control plane implemented in software capable of running on general purpose computers, these management features are only limited by the amount of compute power the SDN customer is willing to deploy. As such, we foresee more and more complex management and analysis features offered by each SDN vendor.
As with many emerging markets, each SDN vendor will likely rush to include more and more into their standard offering, thus competing on features and functionality.
This will be particularly true for those vendors migrating their control plane from hardware to software. Hardware vendors have had to balance the cost of manufacturing an additional model with their ability to monetize the features and functionality unique to that model. As a result, many hardware vendors have opted to not manufacture additional models and just add features to existing models while maintaining price.
Eventually, those vendors will look for ways to fund the new research and development necessary to add these features. Requiring their customers to pay for these value-added features is a good way to achieve that monetization.
Later in the SDN market development a new phenomenon is likely to occur. Many of today's SDN vendors seem to be targeting large network deployments. Their full-featured high-priced offerings match these target customers very well.
However, as SDN solutions become mainstream, smaller enterprises will want the same benefits, but at a price and scale that matches their needs. Therefore, the vendors with full-featured offerings will be challenged to address these new markets without undercutting the price of these same offerings sold to larger enterprises. Offering these small enterprises the ability to only buy the features they need is a good way to address the lower-end market without eroding their price at the high-end.
The ability to monetize new features with large enterprises and offer reduced features to small enterprises can be achieved when SDN vendors control the configuration of their software using a license management system. Doing so allows the vendor to offer advanced features but for an additional price and to reduce features to those small enterprises who have a price ceiling.
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