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Big Switch CEO: We're Not for Sale

Doug Murray says he's a builder, not a seller.

Mitch Wagner

February 13, 2014

4 Min Read
Big Switch CEO: We're Not for Sale

Doug Murray, the CEO of software-defined networking (SDN) startup Big Switch Networks, has a message for the market: "We're not for sale!"

In the latter part of 2013, rumors circulated that Big Switch Networks was being lined up for an acquisition, with Cisco Systems cited as the prime potential buyer, but a takeover never happened.

Instead, Big Switch appointed Juniper alumnus Murray as CEO in November.

So, was he hired to find a buyer?

"I've been brought in to ramp up this company and make this company a success," Murray told me in a phone interview, during which I pushed him hard on the acquisition question. The company is not being shopped around for buyers, he stated firmly.

Murray, who has given Light Reading the lowdown on his current strategy, said last year's Cisco acquisition talk was just "rumors and speculation" and "a lot of FUD" that pre-dated his joining the company. (See Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle.)

Figure 1: Image: Adam Jones, Ph.D. Image: Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Big Switch was handicapped by early hype, and now needs to prove its mettle, said Christian Renaud, analyst for 451 Research. "They got so much early exposure they were the poster children for OpenFlow and SDN," he said. "They burned through a lot of their operating capital quickly and ran themselves short on runway. They didn't get the adoption needed to become self-sustaining," he added.

Big Switch, which was founded in 2010 and launched what it claimed was the first "open" SDN product suite in late 2012, came to customers before the customers were ready to deploy, Renaud said. "They were ahead of the market." (See Big Switch Ships Open SDN Product Suite.)

Financially, Big Switch is in good shape today, Murray said. It concluded its Series B financing in late 2012, for a total $47 million. Big Switch is also bringing in revenue from sales of its products. Running out of money is "not on the short term radar," Murray said. (See Intel Invests in Big Switch.)

Far from running out of money, Big Switch is adding headcount, though Murray was cagey about revealing total numbers. He said Big Switch is looking to increase its total employee count by double-digit percentage points through hiring in engineering, sales, and marketing, and that the company has between 50 and 200 employees.

Big Switch views VMware's purchase of Nicira and Juniper's of Contrail, both in 2012, as validation of the SDN technology model, Murray said.

In other words: Customers are ready.

In addition to Murray, Big Switch has a new management team to execute the new product and strategy vision. These include Prashant Gandhi, who joined in May as VP of product management, Joe Palazola, VP operations and customer support, hired February 4, as well as Jeffrey Wang, hired in December as VP engineering after stints at Cisco and Brocade. (See Big Switch Names Palazola Operations Chief, Big Switch Appoints VP of Engineering, and Cisco Exec Goes to Big Switch.)

"The shift we've made is to move to physical and virtual" -- Murray calls this "P+V" -- "and not just do overlays. Overlays don't scale as effectively. You don't have control over the whole infrastructure."

To help customers achieve operational efficiency, Big Switch couldn't just control the overlay, as it had been. It needed to control the underlying switches as well. So it switched to a "bare-metal" strategy, shipping its Switch Light software that runs on commodity hardware.

As part of its strategic shift, Big Switch is developing Cloud Fabric end-to-end cloud operations management software. The service is now in beta with five customers, including carriers and datacenter companies. Big Switch expects to ship this year, and will have a firm date for that in the next quarter, Murray said.

Murray spent a lot more time talking with Light Reading recently, explaining the SDN company's direction and plans.

Check out all he had to say by reading Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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