Light Reading

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

 
From The Founder
Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Documentaries
EANTC Tests Nokia IP Routing & Mobile Gateway VNFs for Real World Deployment

2|9|16   |   5:08   |   (0) comments


Nokia obtained validation of its virtualized router and virtualized mobile gateway capabilities through rigorous testing performed by EANTC. The results set a new industry benchmark for outstanding performance, scalability, resiliency and manageability. Nokia VNFs are ready for telco cloud deployment, so that service providers can accelerate mobile, business and ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Level 3's Jack Waters

2|8|16   |   26:15   |   (1) comment


Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
LRTV Custom TV
The Composable Telco

2|8|16   |   24:46   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Principal Analyst Caroline Chappell presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
LRTV Custom TV
Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
LRTV Custom TV
Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Shades of Ray
MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
LRTV Custom TV
Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
LRTV Custom TV
Quad Channel Modulator Driver with 46 Gbaud Capability from MACOM

1|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


MACOM's MAOM-003427 is the industry's first surface-mount modulator driver with 46 Gbaud capability to support next generation 200G and 400G applications.
LRTV Custom TV
Video Infographic: Validating Cisco's NFV Infrastructure

1|26|16   |   02:24   |   (1) comment


We all know that the network of the future will be virtual, but when will virtual become a reality? This video infographic covers the four key areas in which Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, tested Cisco's NFV infrastructure: performance, reliability, multi-service capabilities and single pane of glass management.

For the full report, see

Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Phil McKinney, CableLabs

1|22|16   |   13:36   |   (1) comment


At CES in Las Vegas, we met with Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs. Phil provides an update on the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1, his views on the future of open source and how consumer interest in virtual reality could affect network traffic.
Upcoming Live Events
March 10, 2016, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 5, 2016, The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, NC
May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Google's 5G Radio Ambitions Are Expanding
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/5/2016
Cincinnati Bell Joins Weight Watchers Club
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/5/2016
Yahoo & Verizon Sitting in a Tree...
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 2/8/2016
Vodafone: Flexible Work Policies Boost Profits
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/8/2016
It's Time to Integrate OTT Video
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/8/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Animals with Phones
Retro Is the Way to Be Click Here
Some animals are too cute for smartphones.
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.