& cplSiteName &

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  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
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

 
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Wednesday, September 14, 1:00PM EDT
What Is Agile?
Kent J. McDonald, Product Owner, Agile Alliance
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Friday, September 16, 1:00PM EDT
How to Implement Agile
Alan Bateman, Director, Agile Transformation
Wednesday, September 21, 1:00PM EDT
What Is DevOps?
Colin Kincaid, CTO, Service Provider, Cisco
Friday, September 23, 1:00PM EDT
How to Implement DevOps
Burt Klein, DevOps Strategist, Tech Mahindra
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Are You Ready for Huawei Connect 2016?

8|31|16   |     |   (0) comments


Join us for an exclusive sneak peak of Huawei Connect, an integrated conference for the global ICT ecosystem taking place in Shanghai.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: UXP's Gemini Waghmare

8|26|16   |     |   (0) comments


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
LRTV Custom TV
F5 Virtual Network Function Integrations With Partner Orchestration Platform

8|24|16   |   6:38   |   (0) comments


F5's Kishore Patnam, product manager for F5's service provider solutions, discusses why service providers are moving towards virtualization and how his clients are utilizing F5's solutions.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Intel's Alexis Black Bjorlin

8|17|16   |   06:23   |   (0) comments


Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Accelerating Telecom Digital Transformation With Nominum DNS

8|1|16   |   12:04   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's Steve Saunders gets an update from Nominum CEO Gary Messiana on how his company is helping carriers on the digital transformation journey.
LRTV Custom TV
Reinventing Operations for a Virtual, Software-Defined World

7|28|16   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges speaks with Accenture's Larry Socher and Matt Anderson about what service providers must do to transform their business to get the benefits of SDN and NFV including: leveraging DevOps, introducing real-time OSS and implementing analytics.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Fujitsu Sales Leader Shares Lessons Learned

7|27|16   |   5:12   |   (1) comment


As Fujitsu's only female sales leader, Annie Bogue knows the importance of asking for what you want, being flexible (she's been relocated five times), keeping a meticulous calendar, 'leaning in,' working harder than everyone else around you, being aware and more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
VeEX Test & Measurement Solutions

7|25|16   |   08:57   |   (0) comments


Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX Inc., talks test and measurement with Light Reading's Steve Saunders at BCE 2016. This includes innovative products such as VeSion Cloud-Based platform for network monitoring; MTTplus Modular Test platform for Access, Business, Carrier Ethernet, Transport and Core services; and OPX-BOX+ for Fiber Optics.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live From BCE 2016

7|25|16   |   03:20   |   (0) comments


VeEX's Senior Director of Business Development, Perry Romano, explains how VeEX provides tools to help install, maintain, monitor and manage network infrastructure efficiently and effectively. The portfolio of products on display include the RXT-6000, MTTplus and TX300s.
LRTV Custom TV
Real-Time Telemetry & Analytics for Intelligent SDN Orchestration

7|25|16   |   03:09   |   (0) comments


Packet Design CEO Scott Sherwood discusses how real-time network telemetry and analytics are enabling a new breed of SDN orchestration applications.
From the Founder
The Russo Report: Driving Disruption

7|25|16   |   07:44   |   (2) comments


In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
LRTV Custom TV
NetScout: Maximizing Enterprise Cloud for Digital Transformation

7|20|16   |   04:53   |   (0) comments


Light Reading Editor Mitch Wagner talks to NetScout CMO Jim McNiel about maximizing the benefits of enterprise cloud and digital transformation while minimizing potential pitfalls with a proper monitoring and instrumentation strategy.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Google Fiber Can't Be Called a Failure
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2016
FirstNet: A Billion-Dollar Boondoggle?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/26/2016
WiCipedia: Should Men Be Included? & Olympians Face Discrimination
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 8/26/2016
Is There No Stopping Huawei?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 8/26/2016
600MHz Auction Climbs Over $22B
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/29/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Bridging the tech skills gap is a major challenge for service providers and suppliers alike today – and the challenge is two-fold when it comes to increasing the number of women in the comms space. Level 3 Communications has made it a priority to overcome both challenges by implementing several unique programs focused on building the right candidates from within – in addition to filling the funnel by supporting STEM and other education programs. During this radio show, you’ll learn about these programs from Mary Beth McGrath, SVP of Global Talent Management at Level 3, and the best ways to bridge your own skills gap so that you are motivated and equipped for change. Plus you’ll have the chance to ask Mary Beth your questions live on the air.