Published On: Fri, Feb 10th, 2017

Transport/Multi-Layer SDN: Picking Up the Pace

Vendors’ investments and service providers’ deployments are moving toward mass commercialization

ACG Research has released its Q3-2016 worldwide Transport/Multi-Layer SDN (ML-SDN) results, which track SDN enabled equipment and SDN Control/Application software shipments for Metro, Edge and Core network categories. Total ML-SDN revenues were up 15% q-q with the Edge category remaining the largest at 39.2% and fastest growing at 19.6% q-q. The Metro category was second with 35% of the market and 17.1% q-q growth. The Core market remained the smallest category at 25.5% and a growth rate of 6.2% q-q. SDN Control/Application software revenue remains relatively modest for all vendors at less than 6% of the transport SDN market. However, we expect Control/Application software to increase in absolute terms and as a percentage of the overall ML-SDN market with growing commercial deployments in 2017 and beyond. We forecast approximately 10% of the ML-SDN market will be Control/Application software by 2020.

Cisco remains the overall ML-SDN market share leader as well as the leader in all four individual categories: Metro, Edge, Core and Control/Application software. Cisco’s investment in the IOS-XR operating system is utilized across IP/MPLS routers as well as metro optical transport equipment, including the NCS series, which enables a broad portfolio of transport SDN functionality across Metro, Edge and Core.

A commercial deployment example for Cisco is Colt’s December 2016 selection of Cisco for its 100G packet network upgrade, which utilizes the IOS-XR operating system with the NCS5500/ASR9K and Cisco WAN Automation Engine in combination with Cisco’s Network Services Orchestrator for multilayer SDN planning, control and automation. Cisco continues to emphasize that the network simplification, abstraction and programmability associated with SDN is key to service providers reducing operational and capital expenditures while increasing their service velocity.

Nokia retained the #2 overall ML-SDN market share position as well as #2 in Edge and Control/Application software categories. Nokia continues to enhance the SDN functionality in its optical portfolio as well as the IP/MPLS portfolio via its SR operating system. Nokia continues to gain traction with its Network Services Platform (NSP), which was launched in 2015 and is utilized for multi-layer SDN control and automation. Nokia announced two recent transport SDN deployments with the NSP controller: Jiangsu Telecom (China Telecom regional entity) in September 2016 and Globe (Philippines) in October 2016. In a move toward operational maturation, Nokia also demonstrated additional service assurance capabilities in the NSP platform at the Layer 1, 2, 3 SDN World Congress in The Hague, Netherlands, in October.

Juniper moved back into the #3 overall ML-SDN position with Huawei in the #4 slot and Ciena in the #5 position. Juniper took the #3 spot in Edge, Core and Control/Application software segments with its multi-layer NorthStar controller. Huawei was #2 in Metro and Core segments. Ciena was #3 in the Metro category.

Although transport SDN has been slow to emerge from trials and into mass commercial deployment, there is clear evidence that service providers are increasingly ready and willing to move in that direction with strong vendor support:

  • Transport/ML-SDN commercial deployments are under way globally and include recent announcements from Colt, Globe, China Telecom and Windstream.
  • Vendors are investing in their transport SDN solutions, including the general availability of features such as segment routing from Cisco, Nokia and Juniper.
  • Operational considerations such as service assurance are moving to the fore of vendors’ roadmaps and implementations.
  • Open source communities such as ODL, ONOS and ONF are active and delivering regular enhancements, including the recent Boron release from ODL and Hummingbird from ONOS.
  • The OIF executed multi-vendor SDN Transport-API testing in Q4-2016 as a follow-up to the 2014 proof of concept. Readouts will occur in 1Q-2017, including at OFC in March 2017.

Download the ACG SP ML SDN 3Q16 Analysis analyst report or at

For more information about this report or ACG’s Transport/ML-SDN services contact Tim Doiron, Principal Analyst, Intelligent Networking, at or Karen Grenier, VP Operations at