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
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
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (8) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
LRTV Documentaries
How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Converged Communications: Working Simply & Smartly

3|17|15   |   03.24   |   (0) comments


Edwin Diender, CTO of Huawei's Enterprise Switch & Communications division, outlines the four main pillars of Huawei's unified communications portfolio and explains how the addition of 4K video capabilities has helped Huawei develop a groundbreaking videoconferencing solution.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
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
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Women in Tech Coming Into Focus
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/20/2015
Will Open Source Groups Keep Windows Open?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/20/2015
Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
The Rise of Industry 4.0
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
Net Neutrality Suits: Only The Beginning?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 3/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
More Is More Click Here
T-Mobile's Buy One Get One Free deal was too much for Fluffy to pass up. He decided more was more.
Latest Comment