Light Reading

Intel Invests in Big Switch

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
2/7/2013
50%
50%

Big Switch Networks is announcing Friday that Intel Capital is an investor, a pairing that suggests the rise of so-called white-box switches -- generic systems built with off-the-shelf chips -- might be imminent.

Big Switch isn't quite wording it that way. (In fact, executives declined to say anything about their plans.) But the company has made no secret of its disdain for the current state of networking, where big vendors (primarily Cisco Systems Inc.) dominate the market with proprietary systems based on ASICs.

"There's a clear trend toward horizontalization -- getting away from the model where everything comes pre-integrated from one vendor," says Guido Appenzeller, Big Switch's CEO. Any of the "hyperscale" Web/cloud players -- the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services LLC -- have "at least tried" some form of horizontal development in the data center, he says.

Intel invested $6.5 million in Big Switch's Series B funding, bringing Big Switch's total funding to more than US$45 million. The Series B round itself was announced in October and included investors Redpoint Ventures and Goldman Sachs & Co. (See Big Switch Raises $25M for OpenFlow Push.)

It's not hard to see why Intel is interested. Big Switch is developing applications that take advantage of the OpenFlow protocol, which theoretically could replace the routing or switching software that's in a box from a company like Cisco.

That would be a major step toward producing white-box switches. Another major piece required would be the Ethernet switching chip itself. Broadcom Corp. leads that market, but Intel, with the 2011 acquisition of Fulcrum Microsystems, is trying hard to strengthen its footing there.

An ecosystem around white boxes is starting to emerge. Pica8 Inc. recently came out with its reference design for such a switch. So did Intel, for that matter: a design called Seacliff Trail that was announced in September. (See Buying Into the New Cisco.)

If you needed any more evidence that white-box switching is working up a head of steam, some big data-center owners (Google, for instance) and large financial institutions are proclaiming their interest in the concept. They're uniting their voices into the Open Networking Users Group (ONUG), which is convening Feb. 13 in Boston. (Note: Google isn't part of ONUG.)

"You will see some of the largest customers in the world demanding some very specific mandates, one of which is standardization, which implies white boxes," says Jason Matlof, Big Switch's vice president of marketing.

Cisco has countered that ASICs will remain crucial to high-end systems. It's preaching a different vision of software-defined networking (SDN) based on application programming interfaces (APIs) reaching into different layers of the network -- but it's also started warming to the idea of having its switches support OpenFlow. (See Cisco Extends Its SDN & Cloud Plans and Juniper's SDN Will Build Service Chains.)

But getting back to the original point: It's clear Intel Capital isn't investing in Big Switch just for kicks. The idea was championed inside Intel by the Fulcrum group, after they got acquired in 2011, Matlof says.

Of course, Intel was familiar with Big Switch before then, as were all the major chip vendors. Appenzeller has been talking SDN with them since 2008, when he took over the OpenFlow project at Stanford University.

For more

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/11/2013 | 8:12:16 PM
re: Intel Invests in Big Switch
Couple things:-á I didn't mean to imply that Google is somehow driving ONUG (I think they're not even part of it).

Also -- should point out, Big Switch itself is not saying that white boxes are imminent or that it's their company's definite future.-á That's more my analysis of the situation (and, frankly, the conclusion that I bet 99% of you are drawing from the news anyway).-á It's also worth keeping in mind that Intel doesn't always do anything with the things Intel Capital invests in.

I'll make some appropriate tweaks to the story.
obaut
50%
50%
obaut,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/11/2013 | 5:31:03 PM
re: Intel Invests in Big Switch
Generic, CPU-based software-programmed-áhardware for networking functions? That might have worked IF the CPUs were getting faster -- but that's-áNOT happening. The clock rates have not increased for several years now. Multiple processor cores will not allow speeding up processing automatically, and normally the processing performance actually begins to decrease after just handful or two cores.

Also, in service provider equipment,-á99%+ of networking protocol-áprocessing-ádecisions are done in custom hardware logic without any interaction with software.

Yes there can (and should) be an open standard for configuring the operating parameters for (abstracted) hardware via server software. However the performance etc differentiating capabilities of networking products/services will still be mainly derived from the custom hardware design of given equipment.
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/9/2013 | 12:01:33 AM
re: Intel Invests in Big Switch
-áTrue, but I don't think that changes Intel's desire to see the merchant chip market explode, and white-box networking would be a good way to get there.
upand2theright
50%
50%
upand2theright,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/8/2013 | 5:28:26 PM
re: Intel Invests in Big Switch
Don't forget. -áIntel runs a chip foundry for Cisco. -á
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/8/2013 | 6:37:41 AM
re: Intel Invests in Big Switch
Broadcom would have been a more provocative investor, but Intel is the one that actually has a venture arm - and Intel is the one with more catching-up to do, besides.

Interesting timing, with regards to ONUG. Should help fuel a lot of discussion at that meeting.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System (HDS) 8000, featuring Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, caused a stir when it was announced at MWC 2015. For more on this revolutionary product, join me on Thursday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. EST for a Super Webinar event, A New Hardware Paradigm for the Telco Data Center.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
What's in Store for Huawei & DataCore?

4|10|15   |   05:44   |   (0) comments


At the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, George Teixeira, CEO of software-defined storage (SDS) specialist DataCore Software, explains why he has just signed a partnership agreement with Huawei Technologies.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
What if the Comcast Merger Fails?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/20/2015
Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2015
Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/24/2015
Comcast Merger May Hinge on Hulu
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/22/2015
Google Ready to Release Thousands of Loons
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 4/20/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
Cats with Phones
Learning Curve Click Here
Pierre could never remember how to use Excel.
Latest Comment