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SDN Technology

Big Switch Adds Muscle to SDN Fabric

Big Switch today introduced an update to its SDN fabric, adding new monitoring features and support for VMware software and Dell switches.

Big Cloud Fabric 2.5 incorporates Fabric Analytics, a tab in the GUI designed to simplify how network operators troubleshoot their network, providing in-depth performance data on individual network components. These include information on events such as failures, configuration changes, end-point attachment and detachment, switch CPU and memory stats, and more. "It makes it much easier to manage a complex thing like a switching infrastructure," says Big Switch CEO Doug Murray.

Big Cloud Fabric now supports VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) orchestration, integrating with vCenter as well as vSphere with CloudStack. Big Switch plans OpenStack support.

Big Switch also announced a new relationship with Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), which had previously been selling Big Switch's Big Tap network monitoring product. Big Cloud Fabric will now support Dell Open Networking switches, which can be deployed as leaf or spine switches. (See Open Season: Dell Taps Into Big Switch.)

And Big Switch disclosed the results of a "Chaos Monkey" test. The name is coined by the Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) networking team; it simulates forcing random components to fail -- as though unplugged by a monkey roaming through the data center -- while measuring the effect on overall application health. Despite 42,000 simulated end-point virtual machines of background load and more than 650 forced component failures, there was no detectable change in application performance, Big Switch says.

Big Switch sees the new capabilities and momentum as proof of its products' fitness for the market. "Last year, on the industry level, people were starting to do trials. Now we're in the early stages of broad adoption," Murray says. "Customers continue to want to see this proven out. They want to see more and more adoption of fabrics and SDN in the market. Everything we add, the more use cases we can get, the deeper we go in the data center, proves that it's more mature."

As part of the effort to make the case that Big Switch is fit for production networks, the company has put the fabric in its own data center online, so customers can familiarize themselves with the product. The next step for prospective Big Switch customers is to buy a starter kit, starting at $39,000, to try out Big Cloud on their premises, says Murray. (See Big Switch Launches SDN Starter Kits.)

Big Switch has had a tumultuous time in its relatively short life. Founded in 2010, it emerged as the standard-bearer of the emerging SDN movement, but the goal of reinventing networks in one stroke proved far too ambitious. (For a glimpse of what Big Switch looked like in those heady days, see Big Switch Girds for SDN Battle.)

Murray joined in November 2013 and, under his leadership, the company reinvented itself with a more narrow focus, shipping Cloud Fabric in September. Founder Guido Appenzeller left for VMware in October. While the focus is narrower, the long-term goal is as ambitious; open SDN as promoted by Big Switch and other vendors represents a challenge to established vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). (See Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle, Big Switch Intros Flagship Big Cloud Fabric – At Last, Big Switch Ships Big Cloud Fabric and VMware Hires Top Execs From Cisco, Big Switch.)

The new focus came with a new marketing messaging. Rather than having to explain SDN to outsiders, Murray just says his company takes the technology of hyperscale Internet companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Facebook to Big Switch's customers. It's a simpler message -- an elevator pitch.


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Big Switch products are based on bare metal switches and SDN controllers, and use a core-and-pod design, using compute, storage, and networking combined together in racks.

As 2015 opens, Big Switch has achieved four quarters of sequential growth, and landed its first Big Cloud Fabric deal for more than $1 million, with customers in North America, EMEA, and Japan and an international office in Japan, says Murray. (See Big Switch Launches Japanese Subsidiary.)

But Big Switch isn't alone in making strides in the SDN fabric market. Pluribus Networks announced a D round of funding last week, bringing the total to $95 million. Pluribus claims to be the best-funded private SDN company. (See Pluribus: We're the Top-Funded Private SDN Company.)

— 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]

Mitch Wagner 1/28/2015 | 11:23:22 AM
Worldchanging It's fine to have worldchanging ambitions, and Big Switch still seems to have them. But you have to start somewhere, and that generally means offering a specialized product, which Big Switch is doing. 
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