Big News from Big Switch Networks – Product Launch

Big News from Big Switch - Product Launch

Big Switch Unveils Its Product Strategy

Summary: The company’s “real” commercial announcement finally takes it beyond the open-source Floodlight stage. Big Switch offers up some SDN applications, but it’s a far cry from the SDN “app store” that many envision.

The folks over at Big Switch Networks are finally unveiling their products to the public tomorrow under the Open SDN product suite moniker.  It definitely solves a problem we’ve had for some time—what to call the commercial version of Floodlight. Now we know, it’s called the…drumroll… Big Network Controller (BNC). At least their naming convention is consistent.

Seriously though, they are unveiling not just the controller product, but two applications along with the controller, plus a wide range of partners, both on the Southbound side (switches and other networking devices) and on the Northbound side (application providers).

We had an opportunity to get a briefing from Jason Matlof (VP Marketing), Andrew Harding (Senior Director, Product Marketing) and Paul Lappas (Head of Open Source) last week on the product line-up. Their Open SDN suite will comprise both the controller platform, as well as 2 major applications that are part of the launch. Products to be unveiled include the following, and are available today:

Big Switch Open SDN Platform View


  • Big Network Controller (BNC) – retains the same core controller capabilities as the open-source Floodlight, but adds increased scalability and high-availability. It’s touted to manage over 1,000 switches, and can handle 250K new connections per second. Priced at $1,700/month on a subscription model on a per controller node basis. HA requires an additional subscription license.
  • Big Virtual Switch (BVS) – data center network virtualization environment that provides for managing multi-tenant networks in cloud environments in virtual overlay, physical and hybrid topology deployments. Encapsulation method used today is CAPWAP, but they are open to supporting other methods. BVS can scale up to 32K virtual network segments (VNS), and provides integration with orchestration systems including support for OpenStack, CloudStack, Microsoft System Center and VMware vCenter. Priced starting at $4,200/month, and includes a monthly license for BNC. The base starter kit includes 10 devices and up to 31 segments.
  • Big Tap – a monitoring solution that provides port tapping and spanning capabilities to integrate with other security, performance and network packet broker solution. Priced starting at $500/month by the number of tools and by number of boxes.

Northbound and Southbound Partners

The list of partners that they are unveiling with are quite impressive, and it reads like a who’s who in many of the categories:

Time will tell if these partners end up selling solutions built with the BNC as a platform, or whether they simply took advantage of one of the most anticipated unveiling in the SDN world and jumped on the PR bandwagon.  Regardless, from the list of partners, they have 5 application vendors in beta right now, and are working closely on joint sells with some of them.

As for the networking vendors that are supporting Big Switch, Juniper is officially supporting them (they fill the missing controller piece in Juniper’s ecosystem), and they are co-marketing with Arista, Brocade, Dell, Force 10, and Extreme. They’ve tested with IBM and HP, but since those vendors are shipping their own controllers, it makes sense they are not on the list of co-marketing partners.

Differences from the Open Source Floodlight

The main difference between BNC (their core platform) and Floodlight come down to high-availability and performance scalability, topology management, troubleshooting, analysis and statistics, selective broadcast and enterprise integration.  Since there are limited large-scale deployments today of OpenFlow, perhaps the more compelling features will be troubleshooting and just knowing that you’ll have commercial support.

And of course, the commercial version comes with an option for the two applications, BVS and Big Tap. On the applications, it will be tricky line to walk. Big Tap has overlapping features with Network Packet Brokers (NPB) that Big Switch partners with.  And in an OpenFlow network, based on the flexibility of being able to tap any port in a collection of switches without placing NPB boxes in multiple location, it’s possible the Packet Brokers end up selling less of their devices if Big Tap takes off. For now, it seems that at least Gigamon is putting their toe in the water to see if SDN and Big Tap has any significant uptake.

Key Takeaways

All in all, this is an impressive product launch, especially since Big Switch has been out in the market for some time in multiple beta and POC deployments, and has been tweaking and fine-tuning their story. Here’s our take:

  • Significant but still early. The launch of the commercial Big Network Controller is a significant SDN milestone, since it’s the first commercial controller with an application programming API and a 3rd-party application ecosystem. However, it’s still a long haul before we have our SDN “App Store”, and many issues to resolve along the way, including security and manageability. This is a far cry still from packaged software that we get from Microsoft or Apple and their large application ecosystems.
  • Be careful of toe-dipping partners. Many of the announced partners are possibly dipping their toe in SDN waters, and it’s still unclear what the long-term viability of the overall ecosystem will be. Who makes what money on each part of the value chain still has to be worked out. And many of the listed partnerships are still “works in progress”, and not deployed in production with clear use cases yet. Regardless, Big Switch has taken the bold step of defining the ecosystem and putting a platform out there for the world to try.
  • Watch those recurring dollars. Starting at $40K/year ($20K per node, two nodes for HA) is priced to allow for easy evaluation by large enterprises. Comparing to IBM’s almost $200K HA controller, it’s certainly cheaper over a 3 year amortization period.However, it’s still dollars worth watching and the recurring model is definitely gaining some traction in enterprise infrastructure, we’ll see if IT folks can warm up to it.
  • Worth taking a look at. For companies looking at SDN proof of concept deployments, it’s certainly worth a look at. Big Switch probably has the most mature ecosystem of any controller platform out there, with more diverse use cases than even VMware/Nicira, and a much larger partner ecosystem. And you can always start with the open-source Floodlight to see if it meets your needs before jumping with both feet into the deep-end of the SDN pool!


        Big Switch Networks Ships First Open Software-Defined Networking Product Suite to Accelerate Network Transformation

 SDN Embraced by Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs  and the SDN Industry’s Largest Partner Ecosystem

PALO ALTO, CA – November 13, 2012 – Big Switch Networks today announced the general availability of the first Open Software-Defined Networking (SDN) product suite, and the industry’s most open architecture delivering: the largest ecosystem of partners, the broadest range of network applications, and the widest range of deployment options. The Big Switch Open SDN product suite enables customers to quickly adopt new network applications not possible with traditional networks, and is deployed in some of the largest and most innovative production networks.

Big Switch Networks Open SDN focus on open APIs, open standards, and platform-independence has attracted the industry’s largest ecosystem of physical and hypervisor switch, security, cloud orchestration and application partners. Big Switch Networks Open SDN ecosystem partners include: A10 Networks, Arista Networks, Broadcom, Brocade, Canonical, Cariden Technologies, Citrix, Cloudscaling, Coraid, Dell, Endace, Extreme Networks, F5, Fortinet, Gigamon, Infoblox, Juniper Networks, Mellanox Technologies, Microsoft, Mirantis, Nebula, Palo Alto Networks, Piston Cloud Computing, Radware, StackOps, ThreatSTOP, and vArmour.

“SDN is the most disruptive and transformative trend to hit the networking industry in over 20 years and Big Switch Networks Open SDN product suite delivers on the promise of the full potential that we envisioned when we started this company,” said Guido Appenzeller, CEO and co-founder of Big Switch Networks.  “Big Switch Networks ecosystem ensures customers the broadest range of choice in physical and virtual infrastructure and applications, coupled with the industry’s only open network application platform. Our Big Virtual Switch network virtualization application enables up to 50% more VMs per rack, resulting in as much as $500K/rack in CAPEX savings and $30K/rack/year OPEX savings, based on a 40 server rack.”

The Big Switch Networks product suite is the only generally available SDN offering that unifies applications and infrastructure across vendors including support for both physical and virtual switches. The suite includes Big Network Controller (BNC), the Open SDN platform for network applications which scales to more than a thousand switches and 250,000 new host connections per second; Big Tap, a unified network monitoring application which provides cost-effective enterprise-wide network visibility; and Big Virtual Switch (BVS), a data center network virtualization application that makes the data center network as agile and dynamic as cloud compute resources, while also driving dramatic increases in compute utilization through automated network provisioning.

Big Virtual Switch supports up to 32,000 Virtual Network Segments, enabling multi-tenancy and workload dynamism at unparalleled scale and simplicity, and offers integration into popular orchestration systems, including OpenStack, CloudStack, Microsoft System Center, and VMware vCenter.

“SDN is enabling a range of applications and bringing new-found agility to what historically has been a closed and inflexible enterprise network architecture,” said Joe Skorupa, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Data Center Convergence, Gartner.  “Open APIs, network application suites and support for physical and virtual infrastructure are important to realize the maximum benefits from SDN.”

“Software-defined networking and network virtualization enable more robust, responsive IT infrastructures,” said James Davis, Senior Vice President, Global Network Services, Fidelity Investments.Big Switch Networks Open SDN architecture and the company’s commitment to open standards and open APIs, with support across the entire network including physical and virtual infrastructure, provides a long term path to network agility, network innovation, and greater overall utilization.”

“We believe SDN has the potential to bring transformational change to the way companies build/manage their network to meet the challenges of highly dynamic and virtualized applications over the next few years,” said Steven Schwartz, Global Head of Telecommunications and Market Data Services at Goldman Sachs and Member of the Board of Directors at ONF. “As fellow members of ONF, we believe the commitment to open architecture, standards and frameworks will be critical to the innovation, adoption and evolution of SDN to address the dynamic needs of the enterprise network.”

 Big Virtual Switchdynamically provisions Virtual Network Segments making the network as agile and dynamic as other cloud infrastructure and preserves workload network properties, independent of where the workload is physically located to:

  • Improve compute utilization by 25% to 50%
  • Rescue stranded compute capacity providing up to 50%+ more VMs per rack
  • Improve VM density and drive down power & cooling costs
  • Reduce cost of building out new data center infrastructure
  • Support a range of topologies including: hypervisor switch overlays, physical switches or Hybrid Network Virtualization, which includes any combination of the above

Big Tapdelivers monitoring functions to an Open SDN. Big Tap provides cost-effective, enterprise-wide network visibility, optimizing the utility of security tools, performance tools, and network packet brokers:

  • Delivering ubiquitous and continuous Network Visibility
  • Filtering and directing traffic to meet analytical tool needs
  • Leveraging Ethernet Switching efficiency and performance scalability

Big Network Controller  is the Open SDN application platform and includes an open programming interface, open core controller based on Floodlight, and open protocols to deliver unified network intelligence, programmability and scalability:

  • Common network abstraction on network infrastructure
  • Normalized policy and functions across fabric
  • Standards-based and open core architecture
  • Enterprise class manageability, scalability and resiliency

Pricing and Availability

  • Big Virtual Switch- Starts under $4200/month- Available Now
  • Big Tap- Starts under $500 month- Available Now
  • Big Network Controller- Starts under $1700/month- Available Now

About Big Switch Networks

Big Switch Networks is the leading Open Software-Defined Networking (SDN) company. Big Switch shipped the first Open Software-Defined Networking product suite, and has built the industry’s most open architecture delivering: the largest ecosystem of partners, the broadest range of network applications, and the widest range of deployment options. Big Switch leverages industry standards and open APIs that enable customers to deploy dynamic and flexible networking applications, including data center network virtualization. Big Switch Networks was founded in 2010 by Guido Appenzeller and Kyle Forster and has raised $39 million from Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs and others.

Check out more about Big Switch Networks on SDNCentral: (our favorite is an Interview with Jason Matlof and Dave Butler of Big Switch Networks)


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