Dell Networking is further cementing its reputation as the data center hardware vendor with the most progressive attitude toward open networking, announcing on Thursday a strategic partnership and resale agreement with SDN controller pioneer Big Switch Networks.
Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) will resell Big Switch Networks 's Switch Light operating system with its S410 and S6000 Ethernet switches for the data center, and also will offer Big Switch's Big Tap Monitoring application, an SDN-based monitoring solution that can be deployed on a gradual basis in existing enterprise network configurations to take over some of the functions now handled by individual network packet brokers (NPB). The agreement should help Big Switch expand its market footprint and appeal. (See Dell, Big Switch Team for Open Networking.)
The relationship builds on previous engagements the two companies have had with OpenFlow deployments. The OS aspect of the agreement is similar to Dell's earlier commitment to offer the Linux-based OS from Cumulus Networks. With that announcement, Dell served notice that its Open Networking Initiative was not just a marketing ploy, and that it was willing to embrace the community of startups focused on various aspects of SDN and bare metal networking. (See Dell Opens Arms to Cumulus OS.)
Big Switch CEO Doug Murray describes Big Tap as something of a starter SDN application: "We see it as an enterprise customer's first SDN application," he says. "Because it can be implemented on the monitoring fabric of an existing network environment, it's like an incremental introduction to SDN and mitigates some of the perceived risks of moving to SDN."
The Big Tap application is likely the first in a line of SDN applications Dell will support. It can handle up to 60% of the monitoring functions handled by individual NPBs, freeing up those units to become service nodes supporting more advanced network functions, Murray says.
Big Switch has broadened from its original market play as an SDN controller startup, jumping headlong into the bare metal battle. Meanwhile, Dell has demurred from using the "bare metal" phrase too much. [Ed. Note: We continue to use the entire phrase "bare metal" in hopes that the acronym "BM" finds no traction whatsoever.] Instead, Big Switch describes its Open Networking Initiative as a middle ground between the extremes of bare metal networking and traditional, proprietary hardware models. (See Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle.)
Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking, says that despite some market fears that traditional hardware operators could have the rug pulled out from under them by SDN and open networking approaches, Dell is not seeing that happen at all.
"It's not impacting our traditional hardware business," he says. "It's really building in new, incremental opportunities for us. We've seen a significant amount of interest in the Open Networking Initiative since we announced it in January, through proofs of concept, interest in evaluation units and overall discussions with customers."
He adds that the market reception thus far is giving Dell confidence to grow its ecosystem around the Open Network Initiative. "We hope that this helps to accelerate adoption of SDN and open network in the general enterprise and service provider markets."
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading