Big Switch Unveils Big Cloud Fabric for Data Center SDN

Company officials want to bring the benefits of networking innovation from Google and Facebook to the broader enterprise space.

Big Switch CEO Murray

Big Switch Networks, one of the earlier startups in the nascent software-defined networking spaces when it launched its first products in 2012, last year began moving away from its network overlay roots to embrace a strategy around networking software running atop programmable bare metal hardware.

The company on July 22 launched a new flagship product in line with that strategy that is aimed at bringing the networking capabilities found in hyperscale data centers run by the likes of Google and Facebook to the enterprise masses. Big Cloud Fabric offers a data center switch fabric that runs atop commodity hardware and makes those bare metal physical switches more programmable.

Big Cloud Fabric enables what CEO Doug Murray calls a "core and pod" design favored by Google and others over the traditional network core-aggregation-edge model. Through the new design, programmers can pull together the necessary data center resource to create pods that are optimized for specific workloads, such as virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) or big data clusters, rather than provisioning those resources for specific applications.

The new offering, like Big Switch's Big Tap network monitoring tool, leverages the vendor's Switch Light Operating System.

Networks are more responsive to the tasks that need to be done, and can run atop commoditized bare metal boxes that are cheaper and simpler than the more expensive and complex switches from the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, according to Big Switch officials. Google, Facebook and other vendors that run massive data centers that push huge amounts of traffic over their networks increasingly favor these smaller, cheaper switches.

Murray, in a video on the Big Switch Web site, noted that these vendors have been the driving force behind many of the recent developments in the networking space, and that their efforts can be leveraged by the broader enterprise market to make those networks more programmable, simpler and less expensive.

"Over the course of the last five years, innovation in data center networking hasn't come from traditional network vendors, but rather companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, the hyperscale players," Murray said, adding that Big Switch's vision "is to take this concept of hyperscale networking and the benefits therein and bring it to other data centers worldwide."

One of the key elements to these hyperscale networks are the use of bare metal and open switch hardware, which he said are becoming increasingly popular, with some analysts predicting they will soon become as much as 10 percent of the switches shipped. Other elements are the use of software-defined networking (SDN) elements—such as a single controller that can manage both physical and virtual infrastructures—and the core-and-pod network design, the CEO said.

Big Switch's Big Cloud Fabric is designed to be used in existing data centers, according to company officials. The offering has been beta tested with 10 customers that are using it for projects around private clouds, big data and VDI. The product is designed to run on physical lean-and-spine architectures, supports Broadcom's latest Trident II chips, and is aimed at 10G and 40G environments.

It will come in two editions: the P-Clos Edition, for physical leaf-and-spine environments; and Unified P+V Clos Edition, a physical and virtual fabric where leaf, spine and vSwitches are managed by the Big Cloud Controller Fabric.

Along with Big Cloud Fabric, Big Switch also released the latest version of its Big Tap product. Big Tap 4.0 adds capabilities aimed at such use cases as distributed, remote data centers. Among the enhanced features are deeper packet matching and support for more hardware, including Dell's open networking products and Accton/Edge-Core switches running on Trident II silicon.

The new offerings come at a time of growth for Big Switch, according to officials. It has snagged its first million-dollar customer and also has a large production deployment that runs across 16 data centers. The company has customers on three continents and a range of industries, from financial services and high tech to retail, government and higher education, they said.