The global software-defined networking (SDN) market will be worth $8 billion by 2018, compared to $960 million in 2014.

This is according to figures published late on Wednesday by IDC, which sees significant short-term opportunities in the enterprise market and cloud services sector.

"Virtualisation and cloud computing will increasingly drive the need and demand for innovative approaches to network architecture and network operations, with SDN taking centre stage among the former," said Rohit Mehra, vice president, network infrastructure at IDC, in a research note.

Indeed, SDN enables automated network provisioning, network virtualisation, and network programmability, bringing efficiency and agility to data centres and enterprise networks.

"Enterprises will start their SDN deployments in the data centre, but SDN's applicability and value extends beyond the data centre to the WAN and the campus network," Mehra said.

Enterprises are still identifying the potential benefits that SDN could deliver, IDC conceded, but nonetheless it expects the enterprise market to be a major driver of the overall SDN sector for the next few years.

"The 2014 through 2016 period will be a significant launch point for SDN in the enterprise, with significant growth opportunities for both enterprise-focused SDN infrastructure, and cloud service providers," said Brad Casemore, research director at IDC's datacentre networks division.