Light Reading
Doug Murray left Juniper Networks to guide Big Switch Networks beyond a crowded SDN controller market and into networking's next great disruption. Was that the right move?

Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle

Dan O'Shea
2/13/2014
50%
50%

As software-defined networking (SDN) continues to disrupt the communications networking industry, more executives are migrating from large, traditional hardware vendors to startups.

Big Switch Networks , an early SDN proponent, has gained as much as anyone from that trend. Its most recent hires include Doug Murray, who joined the company as CEO in November and is looking to take it in new directions beyond its SDN controller legacy.

It might seem strange to describe any company as having any kind of legacy in SDN, a market barely more than two years old, but Big Switch made an early impact with its widely downloaded, OpenFlow-based SDN controller many months before that market segment filled up with other startups. Of course, those early movers were eventually joined by vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Murray's previous employer, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR).

In 2013, Big Switch recognized the need to develop more differentiation to survive the crush of new options. By that time, it was also fending off M&A speculation. (See Big Switch CEO: We're Not for Sale.)

More significantly, it admitted to a flaw in its original approach. "The original premise was to play to the emergence of OpenFlow and overlay networks," Murray told Light Reading in a wide-ranging interview. "The board decided to shift on the belief that the overlay model wouldn't effectively scale over time. It was rife with challenge, not only technically but in terms of go-to-market."

The company hasn't pulled a shroud over its controller. It has looked to broaden its value in the past year by announcing its own version of the original Floodlight-based controller in the form of its Big Switch Controller, a Switch Light thin data plane switching platform, and a Big Tap monitoring fabric. "We still have our controller, but in a market where everyone has one, you need to have differentiation beyond the controller," Murray said.

However, the newest elements of the strategic shift Big Switch initiated in the months before Murray's hiring -- a shift he was picked to execute -- will also put Big Switch on an even more direct collision course with the giants of the hardware game, in particular Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and its application-centric infrastructure strategy. (See Cisco Unveils Application-Centric Infrastructure.)

Big Switch CEO Doug Murray.
Big Switch CEO Doug Murray.

Bare metal + SDN
"We decided we're going to use bare metal switches and SDN software in the datacenter to do two things," Murray said. "The first is a series of applications to enhance the network you have today." To that end, Big Switch put some time recently into refining its Big Tap monitoring application; version 3.0 shipped during the past few weeks.

Big Switch has other applications besides Big Tap ready to introduce, but it wanted to focus on "doing one application exceptionally well, rather than have 10 applications that are just OK," he said. "When I came into the company, we had a whiteboard with more than 10 potential application ideas. It's easy to look at SDN in the datacenter and see all these different things you can do with it, but as a young company, we need to have a priority of focus."

That said, Murray spent his first 90 days at Big Switch helping to develop a 2014 rollout plan for the second prong of the bare metal SDN plan: a hybrid physical and virtual cloud fabric with a similar purpose as Cisco's ACI. "We're building a cloud fabric that will replace your network. As people get comfortable with SDN, we'll have a cloud fabric that will displace the incumbent [vendors] in the market today."

Big Switch previewed its Unified Physical+Virtual Cloud Fabric in demonstration mode last fall. Murray said it will be available in the coming months. (See Big Switch Previews App-Aware SDN Cloud Fabric.)

Displacing incumbents is a big ambition for a small company that had its early foothold in the SDN controller market squeezed by some of those incumbents. However, like others in the SDN community, Murray insists that the much-hyped radical change in networking really is starting to happen. The evidence is in the growing adoption of bare metal networking gear, in particular by influential companies such as Google and Facebook. "They're challenging the status quo of networking in the datacenter and saying, 'We'll do this ourselves and buy bare metal switches and write software optimized to our own applications.'"

Next page: Open community support

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Page 1 / 2 Next >
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
lightbulb0
50%
50%
lightbulb0,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/20/2014 | 4:46:48 PM
Re: great story
SDN represents nothing but one of the many attempts to commoditize networking hardware while the controller approach is ill-fated.
danielcawrey
0%
100%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 1:28:22 PM
Re: great story
This is for sure a market that is going to heat up in the coming years. What's most exciting about all of this is the new methods that will be developed for networking.

SDN's promise is the build leaner and meaner networks, now I just want to see some of that potential unleashed. 
Steve Saunders
0%
100%
Steve Saunders,
User Rank: Blogger
2/14/2014 | 1:18:36 PM
great story
wow .. what a cracking piece of analysis. Head and shoulders above the run of the mill stuff I've been seeing on Big Switch until now. Kudos, LR eds, for this story. Great Friday reading!

Steve - LR Founder

 
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
LRTV Custom TV
Exploring the Future of Cable Access

10|15|14   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Brett Wingo looks at where cable access architectures are heading, discussing the impact of DOCSIS 3.1, CCAP, Remote PHY, SDN, virtualization of cable networks and related technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Optimizing & Monetizing WiFi

10|15|14   |   5:53   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Vince Pandolfi outlines the reasons for cable WiFi's rapid growth, lays out the issues with the technology and explains the new Cisco tools that can help operators monitor and improve their WiFi delivery.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Emulex & Huawei Collaboration Mutually Beneficial

10|14|14   |   4:17   |   (0) comments


US company Emulex collaborates with Huawei in areas such as blade servers and workload documentation. Mike Heumann of Emulex believes that Huawei has done incredibly well moving from a telecom company into servers and networks, working closely with customers to realize their needs.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Chile's VZION Looks Forward to Seeing More of Huawei

10|14|14   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


VZION is a systems integrator company in Chile with a focus on virtulization technology. In this video, Cesar Alcacibar talks about the challenges in virtualization and how Huawei helps his company to achieve the best results possible. Alcacibar is expecting more adoption and integration of Huawei technologies in Chile.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pro-Datech & Huawei for a High-Tech Singapore

10|14|14   |   2:59   |   (0) comments


Pro-Datech Systems is a specialty IT solution provider based in Singapore. For an added value to its customers, the company uses Huawei's hardware and trusted performance and features for a total solution. It's looking forward to the creation of a lab, to be based in Singapore, for the two companies' coorporation on total storage solution.
Upcoming Live Events
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
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet
Stephen Saunders, 10/15/2014
HBO Will Go OTT in 2015
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/15/2014
Google: Carriers & Cloud Providers Need to Cooperate
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/16/2014
CBS Takes OTT Plunge
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/16/2014
iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/17/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed