Light Reading
The OpenFlow startup is taking on VMware and Cisco with what it says is a more open approach to software-defined networking

Big Switch Girds for SDN Battle

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
11/13/2012
50%
50%

In coming out with its first commercial product, Big Switch Networks seems ready to define some battle lines in software-defined networking (SDN). As expected, the company is promoting a network architecture that uses OpenFlow to program Ethernet switches. As has been fashionable in SDN circles lately, Big Switch is also espousing the idea of a hybrid network -- one where OpenFlow-enabled gear is installed next to traditional routers and switches. That's not quite the same as the overlay model proposed by Nicira Networks Inc. -- now owned by VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) -- and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Those companies talk about using APIs to create tunnels for certain types of traffic, whereas Big Switch would use OpenFlow to reprogram the forwarding tables of switches. The other way has the backing of two large companies. But Big Switch, in making its first commercial-products announcement on Tuesday, is bringing in more than 25 partners, including five major switch vendors. "They're very far along. We're really impressed by them," says Eve Griliches, an analyst with ACG Research .

Opening up
Big Switch calls its vision of the network Open SDN, and it's based on a familiar three-layer setup proselytized by the Open Networking Foundation . Big Switch uses its controller to talk "south" to network infrastructure (Ethernet switches, primarily) and, separately to receive commands from cloud orchestration tools via "northbound" APIs. The controller could use any protocol to talk southbound, in theory, but OpenFlow is the one that's in the market now, and that's where Big Switch is putting its efforts. One crucial element of Big Switch's plan is the use of open interfaces in the north and south directions. Nicira supports open interfaces northbound but doesn't have as universal an approach on the southbound side. The openness is what's allowed nearly all the major switch vendors to team up with Big Switch. Namely, they can create interfaces so Big Switch can talk to switches that don't support OpenFlow. At the last two Interop shows, held in September and May, vendors seemed to be climbing over each other to declare interoperability with Big Switch. That sets up a pretty big distinction. "Nicira only works southbound with their own virtual switch," Griliches says. "Big Switch operates with any OpenFlow-enabled physical or virtual switches in the network." Service providers would prefer to see the northbound and southbound interfaces be open, Griliches says. That's because a groundswell of applications is expected to emerge now that SDN has become a hot and venture-fundable area, and no carrier wants to suddenly find out its applications don't work on a particular vendor's gear. Tuesday's announcement lists five of the biggest switch vendors among Big Switch's partners: Arista Networks Inc. , Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). As for the companies not included -- yeah, Cisco is on that list. "As of right now, we are not working with them," says Jason Matlof, Big Switch's vice president of marketing. Nuts and bolts
The central piece being announced Tuesday is the Big Network Controller, Big Switch's OpenFlow controller. Big Switch already made the heart of the controller, Floodlight, available via open source. For its production release, the Big Network Controller adds some heavy-duty enterprise features, such as support for high-availability clusters, or other features tied to performance at high scale. The latter point is important, because while Big Switch is announcing general availability of its products Tuesday, it's been running them in production networks -- the types owned by financial firms and content providers -- for some time, Griliches says. "If you've got guys who are already using it in production networks where their traffic is equivalent to Tier 1s, I don't think you have to worry about scalability," she says. Big Switch is also announcing two applications of its own: Big Virtual Switch, which automatically provisions virtual machines into servers, and Big Tap, a network monitoring aid that replicates data information to promulgate among several monitoring tools. For more

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:47 PM
re: Big Switch Girds for SDN Battle


I emphasized the southbound partners (Ethernet switch vendors) but the majority of the 25+ partners announced today are on the northbound side. Lots of them are little cloud companies I haven't heard of yet -- but Microsoft and Citrix stand out, as do (on the security side) F5, Radware and Palo Alto.


The difficulty with the "open" philosophy is that you have to work at all these partnerships. Otherwise, you get an open interface that nobody's bothering to use.


I'm definitely seeing a Big Switch vs. VMware vs. Cisco battle heating up. If you see it differently, do let us know.

big_thinker
50%
50%
big_thinker,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:17:45 PM
re: Big Switch Girds for SDN Battle


agreed... they can give run for the money to major players like vmware and cisco and others....    

Flash Poll
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Network Solutions Help the Philippines Jump Ahead

9|17|14   |   2:59   |   (0) comments


In the past, the Philippines has under-invested in technology. Now, the CEO of Softshell talks about how Huawei products help the Philippines jump ahead as the economy improves.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
VCS Observation for Safer Cities in the Netherlands

9|17|14   |   5:20   |   (0) comments


Holland's VCS Observation has been operating for 22 years. Its main goal is to get cities safer. CEO Wim van Deijzen tells us some of the challenges his company faces and how Huawei is helping to overcome these challenges.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Conversation With Serbia's Ministry of Interior

9|17|14   |   4:38   |   (0) comments


At HCC 2014, the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia talks to us about his projects and corporation with Huawei. Solutions like Safe City and E-Government and services like cloud computing are just some of the areas his department is interested in.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
IHS Analyst Discusses eLTE at CCW 2014

9|10|14   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Thomas Lynch, associate director of critical communications at IHS Technology, talks about broadband in critical communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
TCAA on Huawei eLTE: A Broadband Solution for Mission-Critical Communications

9|10|14   |   2:29   |   (0) comments


At CCW2014 in Singapore, the TCCA's Phil Kidner talks about the importance of broadband data for critical communications.
LRTV Custom TV
Spotlight on Cisco: SDN for Optical Networks

9|8|14   |   9:27   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Greg Nehib talks OpenFlow and more on the 'Software-Defined Networking for Optical Networks' panel at the Big Telecom Event in June 2014.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Evolved Programmable Network (EPN)

9|8|14   |   4:05   |   (0) comments


A look at the various demos Cisco showed at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event highlighting Cisco's EPN innovation and how SDN and NFV technologies are enabling a variety of new services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Future of Ultra-Broadband, With Kevin Kelly (UBBF2014)

9|5|14   |   1:13   |   (1) comment


If you think the technological changes we've seen up to now are astounding, just wait until you see what the future has in store. Discuss upcoming breakthroughs with Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine, at the Huawei Ultra-Broadband Forum on September 24.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Inaugural Optical Innovation Forum in Nice

9|2|14   |     |   (0) comments


More than 170 attendees from network operators, service providers, analyst firms, and component companies from around the world convened in Nice in June for the inaugural Optical Innovation Forum, co-produced by Huawei and Light Reading.
Wagner’s Ring
Data Centers Drive Telcos Into the Future

8|28|14   |   2:20   |   (2) comments


Data centers are at the heart of key trends driving telecom -- network virtualization, the drive for increased agility, and the need to compete with OTT providers.
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Latest Comment
Hot Topics
Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/12/2014
AT&T to Launch WiFi Calling in 2015
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/12/2014
AT&T: We'll Bundle Fixed Wireless & DirecTV
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 9/15/2014
New NFV Forum Focused on Interoperability
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/16/2014
Connecticut Cities Crowdsource Gigabit Nets
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 9/15/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed