Big Switch Networks, the software-defined networking startup that last month scored $25 million, has pulled the covers off an impressive an ecosystem built around its Open Flow-based controller as well as applications built on top of that controller. The announcements, expected on Tuesday, should make Big Switch a force to be reckoned with in the software defined networking sector.
It’s also a series of announcements that are as manipulated as a Dallas socialite’s debut. Some of the elements have been in place since spring and many of the ecosystem partners have been working with Big Switch for months. Still, like the towering hair and the glittering jewels of the debutante, this is a new announcement designed for maximum effect — and it does impress.
On the ecosystem side Big Switch has disclosed a pantheon of formal partners as well as other players in the networking world that didn’t want a partnership but Big Switch engineers found a way to integrate into its ecosystem anyway. (Guess what category VMware, which purchased Big Switch rival Nicira for $1.26 billion last summer, is in?)
Aside from the partners noted above, Big Switch has also rolled out actual products, including its controller software. The Big Network Controller builds upon the company’s open source Floodlight controller. But like any business hoping to make money in the open-source world, Big Switch wrapped some enterprise-class features around the Floodlight kernel. Those features generally aim to make the allocation of networking resources more automated, much like a Platform as a Service makes deploying servers in support of application automated.
Altogether the Big Network Controller acts as an orchestration layer that will use the Open Flow protocol to talk to the networking equipment below it and also has a northbound API that lets Big Switch and third-party networking applications talk “down” to the controller. And speaking of those networking applications, Big Switch is starting off with two. One, the Big Virtual Switch, will virtualize the network, essentially what Nicira does for customers, and the second, Big Tap, is a monitoring product that lets applications see all the packets flowing through the network and then decide how to treat them.
When you put the two announcements together you get a company that has taken the promise of Open Flow and is using it to break apart the vertical integration that has been the norm in the networking industry. Yet even as it tries to let in new players and reduce the need for a customer to buy a series of products from only Cisco or Juniper(or from an F5 or a Riverbed at higher layers in the stack) thanks to it pulling together the partnerships (or working around vendors who don’t want to play nice) it has made an effort to deliver the assurances that corporate IT buyers need when trying to buy different products from different vendors — namely that they’ll work together.
This is a debutante that means business.