Cisco Rival Big Switch Networks Raises $25 Million for SDN Push

Big Switch Networks, which specializes in software-defined networking (SDN), raises $25 million in Series B funding as the company seeks to change the networking landscape.

Networking software specialist and Cisco rival Big Switch Networks announced Oct. 30 that it had closed a $25 million Series B funding round led by Redpoint Ventures and joined by Goldman Sachs and existing investors Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures and others. The platform-independent software-defined networking (SDN) company said it plans to use the funds to continue the expansion of its engineering, sales and marketing teams.

Big Switch Networks’ Open SDN architecture leverages industry standards and open application programming interfaces (APIs) designed to enable organizations to deploy flexible networking applications, including data center network virtualization. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., the company was founded in March 2010 and closed its Series A funding round, which netted $14 million, in March 2011. The latest funding round brings the total Big Switch has raised to date to $39 million.

SDN represents a major departure from standard procedure in data centers, where the firmware of network switches and routers—otherwise known as the control plane—traditionally has been locked, proprietary and kept under the control of the companies that manufacture those machines. Companies specializing in SDN turn this approach on its head to make the control plane remotely accessible and modifiable via third-party software clients, using open protocols such as OpenFlow.

“Big Switch is delivering on the vision of software-defined networking with an open and standards-based platform that enables network programmability, flexibility and new levels of network service delivery. We started this revolutionary trend away from closed and proprietary systems, and are gratified that every major physical and virtual infrastructure vendor is now participating,” Big Switch Networks co-founder and CEO Guido Appenzeller said in a statement. “Working with our ecosystem of partners, the Big Switch platform will disrupt networking applications as we know them today. Investors have recognized the potential of this opportunity, and we are pleased to have the support of a strong investor syndicate, including Redpoint and Goldman Sachs, who join Index, Khosla and others, on this exciting journey to deliver truly programmable networks.”

Big Switch's growth could pose a potential threat to networking giants like Cisco and Juniper Networks, as the startup's virtualized networking technology allows businesses to make changes in networks and data centers without the need to upgrade costly and often proprietary hardware. The news follows VMware’s $1.26 billion acquisition in July of Nicira, another player in the SDN space. Nicira's software gives network admins a faster and more efficient way to manage data flow changes and monitor them from a central location. That acquisition expanded VMware’s networking portfolio, which includes vSphere virtual switching, vCloud Director networking, and vShield Network and Security software defined services.

“The Redpoint team has been looking at data center architectures for a good while now—and we’ve been particularly focused on the open opportunity to address the limitations of networking architecture,” Satish Dharmaraj, Redpoint Ventures general partner, said in a statement. “Big Switch’s open ecosystem approach and its brilliant team have created a breakthrough disruption at the right moment—and we’re very proud to participate in supporting their vision.”