Blog Post

Software-defined networking is hot and Big Switch has data to prove it

Updated: Big Switch, which many in the networking sector have enshrined as Nicira’s rival in software defined networking, said Monday that its Floodlight open-source, SDN controller software has surpassed 6,000 downloads and supports an ecosystem worth $3 billion. This type of momentum release is generally a company’s way of saying, “Hey, look at me,” and isn’t a huge surprise given the slow pace of summer and the fact that Nicira is in the process of selling itself to VMware (s vmw) for $1.26 billion.

Big Switch wants developers, startups and most importantly — potential acquirers — to know that it is not only still relevant, but that it might be the sole “open” choice left for those looking at software defined networking and pondering how to implement the underlying virtualization of the network. Check out the quote form the release from Guido Appenzeller, CEO and co-founder of Big Switch Networks.

“This further solidifies Floodlight’s API interface as the standard for programming SDN networks, and will make it easier for customers to avoid vendor lock-in as OpenFlow applications developed by Big Switch, third parties or their own in-house developers become available.”

In other words, Big Switch is not only still relevant, but it’s also the platform play for software defined networks as opposed to an element of VMware’s future software defined data center products, which will likely require buying into VMware’s overall vision and software licenses. But, since VMware has yet to close on the Nicira acquisition or detail its plans and products for the software defined data center, the release is mostly about FUD and enticing a likely buyer.

So who might that buyer be? Likely candidates include Citrix (s ctrx) (hey it bought XenSource, the maker of an open source hypervisor); IBM, (s ibm) which has a partnership with Big Switch and has its own controller software and evolving strategy around SDN; and Intel,(s intc) which is a chipmaker but invests more than many realize in software and has a big stake in getting deeper into the networking chip market as computing and networking converge. Update: I was called out on Twitter for not including the big networking companies in this list, but was trying to go beyond the obvious of Cisco, Juniper, HP and Arista. Still, those companies too are potential buyers of Big Switch, although of those I think Juniper and HP would be the more likely acquirers.

Regardless, the Big Switch guys are right when they put the focus of software defined networks on applications, as opposed to the mechanism for virtualizing the hardware. While the controller and virtualization layers will likely dictate who gets revenue today in the SDN market, it’s the potential that the applications will unleash that will provide the most value. Much as virtualization of the server helped pave the way for cloud computing, virtualization of the network will allow for new ways of thinking about connectivity — in the data center, carrier networks and even in the home.

3 Responses to “Software-defined networking is hot and Big Switch has data to prove it”

  1. Reblogged this on Virtualized Geek and commented:
    I’m starting to understand and agree with the value applications making API calls into a Software Defined Network. Before watching the video on SDN from Structure, I would have never believed data center providers would let software/applications define the peering relationship with other data center providers. This is a completely different way to look at applications and networks. Before we get to that application level integration we need to workout SDN at the hardware layer. Solutions like those developed by Big Switch Networks eventually being the OpenStack of SDN. It’s too early to tell if it would be Big Switch’s solution itself.
    Also, I wouldn’t assume that VMware will close Nicira’s solutions to other platforms. I think 2013 will be the year of the non-VMware hypervisor. The Hypervisor will be a commodity and VMware needs to move beyond being the best hypervisors. Shortly good enough will be good enough.
    VMware will need to move up a layer in the stack and focus on where the true value is added in this space which is data center and cloud management. They have the advantage of being able to manage the whole stack. Network is one piece of what the Nicira purchase brings. They’ve purchased a cross platform cloud management company and now the makers of OpenSwitch and changed management. I’m personally anxious to hear their vision for SDN.

  2. Kyle Forster

    Hi Stacey,

    While we agree with you that Big Switch Networks’ focus in SDN is in the right place with the applications, we also think it is worth mentioning the most important constituency (to us) for this release — the rapidly increasing number of SDN users.

    In a design session two weeks ago, one of the data center architects with whom we were working said “you know – the reason I flew out here is because of the ecosystem that is emerging around you guys with Floodlight. I don’t want to buy from just one company. I want you to be my door to multiple points of view.”

    We hear that often. When our biggest customers are telling us that the breadth of applications and the SDN ecosystem around us is what they value, that is where we put our time and energy.

    Since we started the company, we’ve been actively engaged (albeit quietly) in building an ecosystem of OpenFlow physical switch, hypervisor switch, and SDN application partners to go the distance. We are quite proud of the data we just released, and wanted to share it with our users and ecosystem partners. This is working for everyone.

    Kyle Forster
    Co-Founder, Big Switch
    (the guy on the right in the pic above)

  3. GigaLoam

    This article carries an odd tone.

    It seems overly critical of BigSwitch and comically apologetic for VMWare in this section:

    “But, since VMware has yet to close on the Nicira acquisition or detail its plans and products for the software defined data center, the release is mostly about FUD and enticing a likely buyer.”

    No one needs to wait to know what VMWares plans will be.

    Nicira will become a “vSphere Network Director” or something equally vGeneric which requires $3000+/socket VMWare Enterprise Plus license to use.

    Anyone who has spoken to VMWare from the perspective of a customer in the past 2-4 years knows that they company is all about vendor lock-in. The VMWare attitude identical to Microsoft’s in the late 90s just a layer down.

    The BigSwitch statements here are self-serving yes, but hardly FUD.