Top Providers of SDN Services

Blog published by CW (Cambridge Wireless), under Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)

As 5G networks become a reality, so too are the technologies that will enable operators to handle the gigantic expansion in data rates, data formats, devices and platforms that will ensue. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is one such simplifier of 5G. It is a distributed software management system that can automate processes and enable agile network control from a centralised location.

There are three basic components to a 5G network: the data plane, the control plane and the management plane.  At its most basic, Software Defined Networking splits the data plane – ie the part of the network that actually carries users’ traffic - from the control plane – ie the part of the network that decides what to do with that traffic. Traditionally both of these planes were managed by firmware installed in network equipment. SDN converts the control plane into a software component, meaning that it can be more flexibly managed.  Without SDN important 5G concepts such as network slicing or forward programmability of the non-IP user planes would not be possible.

Below, CW looks at some of the companies developing SDN technologies. 

To find out more about software defined networking, sign up for CW’s “Reality Check for SDN”, a half day event on 12 March in London that will explore important SDN concepts and provide insight into current deployments.

Register online


Cisco is one of the world leaders in SDN technology offering solutions for both data centre and network managers. Their ACI offering facilitates application agility and data centre automation and is used by the likes of Ameritas, while their DNA Centre uses artificial intelligence and machine learning for network managers (even of private networks) to proactively monitor, troubleshoot and optimise their charges. DNA customers include National Instruments, Symantec, IBM and Houston Methodist Hospital.


VMware, the software company, acquired Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform in 2012 for $1.26Bn, despite the company only having received $50M in investment up to that point and only having a couple of key customers. Their SDN offering, NSX, focuses on security from the start and helps businesses get more value out of existing hardware. Their website claims to include 90% of the Fortune 100 as customers, each of whom could be saving 60% in OpEx via network automation, 65% in monitoring and troubleshooting networks and 75% in perimeter operating expenses.


With four solutions in its SDN product portfolio, Juniper, a Californian company that exists to solve the world’s most difficult problems in networking, covers network virtualization, turnkey cloud management, and traffic management and engineering as well as providing customer premises equipment that simplify the creation and delivery of network services. In 2019 the company was named by Gartner as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking and the latest Forrester Wave report ranks Juniper as the leader in Data Center Hardware Platforms for SDN.


Pluribus is a young and rapidly growing company, considered by Deloitte to be within the Top 100 fastest expanding organisations in North America. The three founders from Stanford offer a slightly different approach to SDN, creating a single logical programmable entity featuring multi-tenant, low latency and distributed network services and claim comparable cost reductions to other providers. A notable customer for Pluribus is Ericsson who use the Adaptive Cloud Fabric in their software defined infrastructure.

Big Switch Networks

Another SDN start-up to come out of Stanford University, this organisation is widely considered one of the original pioneers of the technology. Originally launching with network visibility and security offerings, they followed this up a year later with a data center switching fabric that brings the simplicity of public cloud to on-prem data center networks. Their Big Cloud Fabric solution offers to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership by almost half in three years as well as tripling agility levels for new service enablement.

Versa Networks

Versa Networks owns the niche in software defined WANs, supporting businesses in the upgrade of legacy WANs and traditional networking hardware to more up-to-date solutions. They won a truckload of awards in 2018, including the Leadership Award at the SD-WAN Expo and the Internet Telephony Product of the Year and SD-WAN Product of the Year awards. Flagship customers include Virgin Media Business, Capital One and Comcast Business.

Colt Technology

An alternative route for companies considering SDN services, this UK based firm has 25,000 customers across their Network, Voice and Data Centre services including 21/25 of the top global telecoms companies, and - they have a particular specialism in the financial sector - 18/25 of the top global diversified financial groups. Rather than offering SDN solutions for others’ networks, Colt manages a privately owned network to its customers that spans 32 countries with 100Gbps speeds distributed to 900+ data centres – with SDN and NFV features built in.

Lumina SDN

One of the newer providers on the block, Lumina has telecoms heavyweights Verizon and AT&T supporting its growth. Their SDN Controller is powered by OpenDaylight and provides a common, open platform for service providers or developers, giving direct control over SDN development and implementation. Their core values are around preventing vendor lock-in and putting owners more in control of the future of their networks.


If you’re after one of the tech giants as your SDN provider, IBM have a range of services in this area that cover data centres, wide area networks and branch networks. They have partnered with a number of other SDN leaders in our list including Juniper Networks and Cisco to improve their understanding of the market. ISG, the global technology researcher, names IBM as a market leader in software-defined networking.

Nuage Networks

A Nokia Company, so another potential if you’re looking for an SDN provider backed by a telecommunications industry heavyweight. Nuage went from being a start-up to an independent organisation in the Alcatel-Lucent portfolio before the acquisition of that holdings company by Nokia in 2016. Clearly Nokia foresaw the future importance of SDN and the potential of Nuage’s technology as it has continued to invest in the growth of this business. The results are accolades from across the world, with the likes of China Mobile claiming “Nuage Networks openness, flexibility and scalability are critical to China Mobile’s architecture and growth plans”.

To find out more about software defined networking, sign up for CW’s “Reality Check for SDN”, a half day event on 12 March in London that will explore important SDN concepts and provide insight into current deployments.

Register online

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