Although no single company has established itself as outright leader in the European network virtualisation solutions market, IBM and Cisco can be considered the strongest major players in this nascent market, although Accenture, VMware and HP also feature within this grouping.

These are among the findings of a new International Data Corporation (IDC) vendor assessment and market analysis study profiling and ranking the leading providers in the network virtualisation solutions market in Europe.

This IDC study assesses nine technology and solutions providers that are already present and active in the early stages of the development of the network virtualisation solutions market in Europe. Vendor selection focuses on next-generation network virtualisation services solutions either directly or via partnerships, as well as a strong geographic presence or ambition within the European services market.

The assessment discusses both quantitative and qualitative characteristics that explain success in this strategic market.

The network virtualisation solutions market is an emerging market, driven by technology development on the one side, and the end-user drive for network efficiency and reliability to underpin their existing efforts towards transformation. While the technology is still maturing, solutions centred around professional services are beginning to emerge for enterprise buyers to help find their way through this maze.

“Network virtualisation and SDN enable a new way of looking at networking,” says Lionel Lamy, associate vice-president: EMEA Enterprise systems and Network Life Services at IDC.

“The potential impact of the technology necessitates additional and in-depth professional services, because SDN enables communications infrastructure to become software programmable and brings the principles of cloud computing to the network.”

“Network virtualisation and SDN are not mature yet,” says Chris Barnard, AVP of EMEA telco and networking at IDC.

“SDN is new, so vendors are still working on standards and interoperability. Any immediate rush to SDN would involve a degree of risk, although leading edge enterprises are keen to explore it. Ultimately, it is about vision, and here external parties such as the nine vendors profiled in this study can play a key role.”

The IDC MarketScape study uses a rigorous scoring methodology that produces a definitive assessment of each vendor’s current market capabilities and strategies for competing in the future.

Additional key findings raise the following questions for potential buyers of network virtualisation:

* As a buyer, how comfortable are you being aligned so early with one of the SDN “ideological camps”? In 2013, we’ve seen technology-focused, industry heavyweights lining up with different technological approaches.

* Is your enterprise happy to be aligned with one of the camps? If so, then it could be beneficial to engage with a services company associated with such an approach.

* To what extent can they the solutions partner provide professional services on technology issues to implement next-generation network virtualisation solutions, but also provide consulting on the integration between the network and other parts of the ICT spectrum?