The first month of 2016 has been kind to some vendors in the network virtualization space.
Both Big Switch Networks and Plexxi this week announced that they each had received fresh venture capital funding from new and existing investors. In Big Switch's case, it was $48.5 million from the likes of Khosla Ventures and MSD Capital, the investment arm for Dell CEO Michael Dell.
For Plexxi, an unannounced amount of funding was received from GV, formerly known as Google Ventures.
Now comes reports that Cumulus Networks, which offers a Linux-based network operating system that can run atop commodity switches from an array of vendors, has in a new round of financing received $35 million from current investors Battery Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and Wing Venture Capital. There also was a new investor, Top Tier Capital.
The new funding comes as industry observers expect the market for software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) to grow rapidly. Analysts with Research and Markets are expecting the SDN space to grow to $11.5 billion by 2020, and that investments in both SDN and NFV will hit $20 billion by that year. IHS Infonetics analysts say that the SDN market for service providers will jump from $103 million in 2014 to $5.7 billion in 2019.
Carriers and enterprises alike are looking to SDN and NFV to enable them to build network infrastructures that are more agile, scalable, programmable and cost-effective than traditional environments, and that will help them better adapt to such trends as mobile computing, big data, the Internet of things and the cloud.
The control plane and networking tasks that normally are housed in expensive switches from particular vendors now can be put into software that can run on less-expensive hardware, including switches and servers. Cumulus' network operating system, Cumulus Linux, can run on industry-standard networking hardware from a range of system makers and that are powered by merchant silicon. Customers can use standard server automation and monitoring software with the OS.
The company is seeing some success. It has seven open-hardware partners—including Dell, whose Open Networking switches can run Cumulus Linux—more than 80 partners and more than 1 million switch ports worldwide, according to officials. Facebook also is leveraging the operating system, and Cumulus also is participating in the Facebook-led Open Compute Project.
In a recent post on the company blog, Cumulus co-founder and CEO J.R. Rivers wrote about the momentum behind the push for new, more open networking infrastructures, from the work of open consortiums and individual vendors to the trend toward what Gartner analysts call "brite boxes"—OEM-branded switches that can run software from multiple vendors.
Cumulus also is riding the wave, Rivers wrote. The company now has 375 customers, and is engaged with 18 percent of the Fortune 50 companies.
"We are spending our time enriching the experience of customers as they embrace Cumulus Linux," Rivers wrote. "Our biggest focus in 2016 is to simplify the adoption of Web-IT practices in the five pillars of operations: architecture, deployment, monitoring, troubleshooting, and lifecycle management. This year is going to be seminal as technology and market maturity of Web-IT align and customers are able to build better, faster and easier IT systems."