Big Switch Networks Joins SDN Gold Rush

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

A startup has joined the SDN data centre trend by offering its own software-defined network products

Big Switch Networks has begun rolling out its first software-defined networking (SDN) product suite, which is said to offer greater manageability and visibility into the network and the ability to support more virtual machines on servers.

The two-year-old company unveiled its Open SDN suite 13 November, with officials noting not only the capabilities offered in the new technology but also the wide range of partners, including Broadcom, Brocade, Citrix Systems, Dell, Extreme Networks, F5, Juniper Networks, Microsoft and Palo Alto Networks.

SDN Stampede

SDNs are getting a lot of interest from organisations looking for ways to make their data centre infrastructure more flexible, scalable and power efficient.

Essentially, SDNs take much of the networking tasks now performed by expensive, complex pieces of hardware and do them instead in software on servers, moving such intelligence as directing traffic, security and minimising latency from switches and routers to software-based controllers. Industry observers see SDNs as a natural step in data centres that are becoming increasingly virtualised, and as a cornerstone of the growing software-define data centres.

A wide range of established networking vendors – from Cisco Systems to Hewlett-Packard to Juniper Networks – are beginning to offer SDN-based solutions, much of which is based on the OpenFlow protocol. There also is a growing list of smaller companies – such as Big Switch and Adara – that are cropping up around the SDN movement.

Some larger vendors – some with no history in networking but with the goal of expanding their data centre solutions – also are buying smaller SDN companies, most significantly VMware’s acquisition this summer of Nicira. In addition, Oracle is buying Xsigo, and Brocade earlier this month announced it is purchasing Vyatta.

“SDN is the most disruptive and transformative trend to hit the networking industry in over 20 years and Big Switch Networks Open SDN product suite delivers on the promise of the full potential that we envisioned when we started this company,” Big Switch co-founder and CEO Guido Appenzeller said in a statement. “Big Switch Networks’ ecosystem ensures customers the broadest range of choice in physical and virtual infrastructure and applications, coupled with the industry’s only open network application platform.”

SDN Portfolio

Big Switch’s Open SDN suite includes the Big Network Controller (BCN) platform, Big Tap network monitoring tool and Big Virtual Switch (BVS), a network virtualisation application. All are generally available now.

BVS can dynamically provision what Big Switch officials call Virtual Network Segments, which bring greater virtualisation capabilities to the network infrastructure and improve the utilisation of computing resources by 25 to 50 percent. In addition, the software enables organisations to put 50 percent more virtual machines into servers, improves virtual machine density, helps drive down power and cooling costs, and offers automated network provisioning, according to the company.

BVN supports up to 32,000 Virtual Network Segments, and can integrate into such orchestration systems as OpenStack, CloudStack, Microsoft’s System Center and VMware’s vCenter. By enabling businesses to better leverage virtualisation, Big Switch’s BVS also reduces the need to build out the data centre infrastructure. The goal is to make the networking layer as dynamic as cloud compute resources, officials said.

Big Switch’s BNC is the platform that includes the programming interface and a controller based on Floodlight, an OpenFlow-based controller technology. BNC offers businesses unified network intelligence, programming and scalability, according to the company. The technology scales to more than 1,000 switches and 250,000 new host connections per second.

Organisations can use Big Tap to monitor the Open SDN. The technology offers wide and continuous visibility and traffic filtering and direction.

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