Software-Defined Networking (SDN) startup Pica8 has won a deal to supply white-box switches to build the network fabric at the TouIX Internet exchange, based in Toulouse, France. The Pica8 white boxes will replace Cisco equipment in the deal, according to a TouIX technology expert.
It’s a small deal, but it may be indicative of SDN’s appeal to Internet exchanges. Marc Bruyere, researcher at LAAS CNRS and one of the technology developers for TouIX, said Pica8’s Open Flow-based switches provided better performance, cleaner management, and the capability to enable Web-based provisioning for customers.
“We really are vendor agnostic, that’s what we wanted,” said Bruyere in an interview with The Rayno Report. “Now we can buy from Pica8, Quanta, and other [white-box vendors] in the future.”
The white boxes will be used in a Top of Rack (ToR) configuration and will handle customer connectivity and BGP peering at the Internet exchange, which currently has nine members.
Bruyere said that traditional switches from Cisco were too difficult to manage and provision, requiring engineers that understood the Cisco Command Line Interface (CLI). With the Pica8 switches and REST APIs, TouIX can now set up Web provisioning for customers to access the exchange.
Another big driver of the deal was the need to eliminate “broadcast storms,” a side effect of setting up traditional Ethernet switches, which generate lots of network traffic when broadcasting domain and MAC addressing information.
Bruyere said that SDN circumvents the problems with broadcast storms by simplifying the network and allowing a central SDN controller to manage network configurations. He believes the SDN deployment is also more secure.
“We can evolve big switches in the core with the design, we can scale and grow, and there is no broadcast side effect,” Bruyere told us.
The deployment will consist of three Pica8 3290 switches, which provide 48 1 Gbit/s ports and four 10 Gbit/s ports. They will replace Cisco 3750 switches.
While the deal is tiny in the scheme of things, Bruyere thinks it’s one to watch because other large Internet exchanges are looking at SDN technology to replace traditional switches and routers. He says SDN pilot projects are underway at places such as Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) and the European Internet Exchange (Euro IX).