If Brocade's predictions for 2014 come true, it will be the year of significant momentum for both network functions virtualization and the software-defined "everything" market. But the predictions, courtesy of Brocade's Kelly Herrell, flies in the face of other predictions that suggest the software-defined networking (SDN) market will continue to be small as vendors and the channel educate customers about the benefits of the technology.

As Herrell, VP and general manager of Brocade's Software Networking Business Unit, noted in an alert to the media, NFV and software-defined technologies "will evolve from being simply 'research,' and enterprises -- particularly in the service provider space -- will begin to roll out production deployments."

And Herrell expects the snowball effect to start after more use cases start emerging. When it comes to the network, initiatives like OpenStack and the OpenDaylight Project will help to drive the technologies and enable enterprises to benefit from SDN and NFV.

Herrell is probably correct in that the networking space will see another snowball rolling down hill when it comes to SDN, but his timeframe seems overly optimistic. There is plenty of hype around SDN, and some organizations have launched pilot projects, but as we reported a few days ago, there's a lot more SDN hype than adoption right now.

Research indicates 2014 is not going to be the year of SDN. Far from it, in fact. There will definitely be deployments as some of the more bleeding-edge companies look to SDN for its benefits, but most organizations aren't quite there yet.

SDN for VARs, Channel Partners

As a channel partner, if you're betting your business on SDN for next year, you may want to focus on getting educated first. Use cases will emerge, but it's likely that 2015 will be the year we see more adoption; and even that might not be as broad as the SDN hype leads us to believe.

Herrell also wrote that technology disruptions will force the industry to "fundamentally rethink how networks should be architected, designed, deployed and operated in data centers." Part of the reason for this is the proliferation of cloud computing. And that means "trimming the fat" in data centers and cloud architectures, he noted.

The network is critical to the cloud market, and that's not going to change. Cloud is still catching on and finding its way in many organizations, though, so some fat trimming (to go along with all those new year's resolutions) makes sense as SMBs and enterprises adopt cloud services on a broader and deeper level.