Big Switch frees up its SDN

Base fabric software to be offered at no cost as inducement for commercial products
  • Jim Duffy (Network World)
  • 27 January, 2016 04:37

Big Switch Networks this week is seeking to build on its success by making its products free.

The SDN company is rolling out a free editions of its Big Monitoring and Big Cloud fabric software as an inducement to upgrade to the beefier – and commercial – versions. Big Switch is also unveiling new releases of the pay versions of the products designed to support 100G Ethernet, enhance VMware and OpenStack integration, and improve scale.

Big Switch just landed a $48.5 million Series C funding round, bringing its total funding to $94 million since its founding in 2010. The company also added two industry luminaries to its board and says it is growing 300% annually, closing multiple deals in excess of $1 million.

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Will a free version of $25,000 worth of its software keep that momentum going? Big Switch believes so.

The so-called Community Edition of Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric is a perpetual license of a base configuration of the products that can be downloaded for use in lab and development environments. Community Edition is intended to provide potential customers with the opportunity to experiment with and evaluate SDN fabrics and open networking switches.

“This is to get into the commercial version of both products,” says Big Switch CEO Doug Murray. “It’s a way to seed the ecosystem.”

Murray says the free and enhanced commercial software is intended to facilitate hardware and software disaggregation, which he says is an alternative to a tightly integrated hardware and software SDN offering like Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure.

The Community Edition of Big Monitoring Fabric includes software for one switch and VM controller pair. The Community Edition of Big Cloud Fabric includes software for one leaf switch pair and VM controller pair.

Community Edition software runs on specific hardware listed on Big Switch’s website. Big Switch says it also provides optional on-line purchase of compatible switches and cables.

The commercial version of Big Monitoring Fabric includes a new release, 5.5, that supports inline security service chaining, an Intel Data Plane Development Kit x86 service node for advanced network services, and 100G Ethernet. The service node capability is a hardware appliance with 4x10G bidirectional interfaces that supports de-duplication, packet slicing and pattern matching services.

Inline security service chaining is intended to simplify, via policies, deployment and change management of multiple DMZ/Extranet security tools. It includes custom messages for tool health and sub-second health checks.

Big Monitoring Fabric 5.5 also includes analytical tools such as an sFlow Collector, historical time series, and DHCP/DNS/ICMP trackers. The 100G switches it supports are 32-port Dell Z9100-ON and Accton AS7712-32X platforms.

Big Cloud Fabric also has a new release, 3.5, that features deeper integration with VMware vCenter and vRealize Log Insight, certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 7, and the ability to logically create vPods that can be associated with different orchestrators. This is designed to simplify cloud deployments, Big Switch says.

The VMware enhancements include a vCenter 6.0 GUI plugin that provides visibility and Layer 2/3 fabric configuration to vCenter administrators upon authorization by a network administrator. The vRealize Log Insight Content Pack provides the cloud administrator with Big Cloud Fabric visibility and analytics.

The vPod configuration feature allows administrators to establish multiple, isolated vPods, based on VLAN tags, where each vPod can be associated with a different vSphere or OpenStack orchestration. Big Cloud Fabric 3.5 also provides cryptographically secure communication between the fabric controller and fabric switches, Big Switch says.

Big Monitoring Fabric starter kits are priced from $29,000 to $39,000. Big Cloud Fabric starter kits are priced from $39,000 to $99,000. Big Cloud Fabric is also priced based on the number of leaf and spine switches, and racks.

Big Switch customers include the U.S. Federal Government, Intuit, Clemson University, CleanSafeCloud, U2 Cloud, five of the 10 largest telcos in the world, and a Fortune 5 oil & gas company.