Big Switch Unveils Free Version of Its SDN Software

The new Community Edition of Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric is aimed at accelerating the adoption of Big Switch's SDN offerings.


Big Switch Networks officials are looking to accelerate the adoption of the company's software-defined network products by offering free versions of its software products.

The company on Jan. 26 introduced the Community Edition of its Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric software offerings that officials said will give businesses a taste of what Big Switch's products can do and hopefully enticement them to buy the more robust commercial versions.

At the same time, Big Switch also unveiled the latest releases of the paid versions of Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric that offer such features as inline security service chaining, 100 Gigabit Ethernet support and greater integration with VMware technologies.

Gregg Holzrichter, vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer at Big Switch, said software-defined networking (SDN) this year should see more widespread adoption as businesses begin moving from test environments and proofs-of-concept to more full deployment of the technology. The freemium Community Edition will enable people to try out Big Switch's technologies on-premises, Holzrichter told eWEEK.

"This is a way to get more people across all organizations to experience next-generation networking in their environments," he said, noting that the company already offers cloud-based ways to check out the products via its BSN Labs program.

In addition, Big Switch also offers starter kits that include the company's SDN software and pre-configured Open Ethernet hardware switches that can be sent directly to the customer. Big Switch officials want to give potential customers as many ways as possible to try out the company's software, particularly given the migration to full SDN deployments many of them expect will happen this year.

"What we're seeing is real adoption and real deployments in production," Holzrichter said.

Industry analysts expect the market for both SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) to grow rapidly over the next several years as enterprises and service providers look for ways to make their network infrastructures more cost-effective, programmable, scalable and easier to manage. Analysts with Research and Markets are predicting the SDN space will grow to $11.5 billion by 2020, and that investments in both SDN and NFV will hit $20 billion by that year.

Venture capitalists also seem energized about SDN. Big Switch earlier this month reported a funding round of $48.5 million, bringing to $94 million the amount it has raised since it was founded in 2010. Other SDN startups, including Plexxi and Cumulus Networks, also were able to raise millions of dollars.

Big Switch's software is designed to run on low-cost commodity hardware that gives businesses an easy and affordable way to embrace network infrastructures that have capabilities similar to those found in larger hyperscale environments. The software enables businesses to configure and upgrade their environments 40 percent faster than with traditional infrastructures. It also enables them to deploy applications four times faster, reduce total cost of ownership by 40 percent and troubleshoot and resolve issues 12 times faster, Holzrichter said. Big Switch officials see their disaggregated offerings as an alternative to Cisco Systems' Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) initiative.

Company officials like their progress so far. Big Switch saw more than 300 percent growth in 2015 and closed multiple deals that were worth more than $1 million.

They hope to grow that even more with the Community Edition of Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric, which essentially will give away $25,000 worth of products for free. It offers a perpetual license of both software offerings that can downloaded and used in a lab or development environment. It offers a single switch of Big Monitoring Fabric and a single rack of Big Cloud Fabric, along with most features. The Community Edition, which is free to download, will run on specific hardware that is published on Big Switch's Website.

The latest release of Big Monitoring Fabric—version 5.5—includes new inline security service chaining for simplifying deployment and change management of multiple security tools, support for de-duplication and packet slicing, advanced fabric analytics, and support for 32-port, 100GbE switches from Dell (Z9100-ON) and Accton (AS7712-32X). It also can run in 10GbE and 40GbE modes, and will operate in 25GbE and 50GbE environments.

Big Cloud Fabric 3.5 is a leaf/spine SDN fabric that supports open networking switches and works as a single point for network provisioning, troubleshooting and analytics of the physical and virtual network environment. The new edition offers greater integration of VMware's vCenter and vRealize Log Insight Content Pack, which gives users visibility and analytics into Big Cloud Fabric. A vCenter 6.0 GUI Plugin offers visibility and Layer 2/3 fabric configuration.

It also includes support for multiple, isolated vPods, with each vPod being able to be associated with different vSphere or OpenStack orchestration, and secure communication between the Big Cloud Fabric Controller and fabric switches.