HPE Adds Big Switch Software to Its Open Altoline Switches

Big Switch is one of several networking vendors to offer open networking gear that can run third-party software in hopes of holding off white-box makers.

open networking

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is adding network virtualization products from Big Switch Networks to the lineup of third-party software that can run on the OEM’s Altoline portfolio of open networking switches.

The tech vendor is now reselling Big Switch’s Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric with three of its Altoline systems, which also can run network software from other companies, such as Pica8.

HPE, through the Altoline family of switches, is one of several established networking vendors that over the past several years have rolled out open switches in hopes of pushing back at the growing popularity of inexpensive and unbranded white boxes developed by original design manufacturers, which have gotten a boost by the rise of software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV).

HPE is partnering with manufacturer Accton Technology to build the software-agnostic switches.

Philippe Michelet, senior director of product line management for HPE’s Data Center Networking business, said in a statement that the addition of the Big Switch products to the Altoline portfolio will give customers “access to easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy solutions for network management, visibility and security. This cooperation shows our commitment to provide our customers with innovative open networking solutions that address their network agility and scalability challenges.”

Big Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric are both designed to simplify network management through automation, give end users greater visibility into networking flows and improve network security, Big Switch officials said. Big Monitoring Fabric is an SDN controller-based network packet broker that provides scale-out data center monitoring at half the cost of traditional NPBs. Through the product, organizations gain pervasive visibility into both physical and virtual workloads to better track security, performance and compliance.

Big Cloud Fabric is designed to deliver the principles driven by hyperscale organizations like Google and Facebook—including network automation, enhanced visibility into software-defined data centers (SDDCs), support for cloud-native applications and zero-touch operations—to enterprise scale-out data centers. It supports VMware’s SDDC product, OpenStack clouds and container environments.

The Big Switch software will run on HPE’s Altoline 6960, 6941 and 6921 switches.

The rise of network virtualization, which includes the disaggregation of network software from the underlying hardware, has roiled the traditional model of proprietary software running on closed systems, and this has driven the increase in sales of white box switches, which are less expensive than branded systems from established OEMs and can run software from a variety of software vendors. Big Switch sells its networking software into white-box and bare-metal environments.

Dell EMC, HPE and Juniper Networks are among the top-tier networking vendors that have adopted what Gartner analysts call a “brite box” approach of offering branded and open switches that can run third-party software. Such systems tend to be more expensive than white boxes but less expensive than traditional switches, and OEMs argue that the support and services offered make them a better deal than white boxes for many enterprises.

The trend toward white and brite boxes is expected to grow in the coming years, according to Gartner analysts, who say that by 2020, these systems will account for 22 percent of the worldwide Ethernet switch market.

“We continue to see customers vote for choice, as witnessed by the rise in demand for open networking solutions,” Susheel Chitre, vice president of business development at Big Switch, said in a statement.

The company in July got a $30.7 million boost in its latest round of financing, with money coming from such investors as Dell Technologies Capital, MSD Capital (the investment arm of Dell CEO Michael Dell and his family), Intel Capital, Silverlake Waterman and an unnamed tier-one service provider. The company has raised a total of $120 million.

Big Switch also is among the third-party vendors partnering with Dell EMC for its open networking efforts. Dell EMC’s family of open switches can run not only Big Switch software, but also the OEM’s own OS10 and software stacks from Pluribus Networks and Cumulus Networks.