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Big Switch SDN fabric gets better OpenStack, VMware support

The Big Switch SDN fabric upgrade improves OpenStack and vSphere support for cloud providers and high-scale data centers.

Software-defined networking (SDN) vendor Big Switch Networks Inc. has made significant improvements to how its data center switching fabric interoperates with OpenStack and VMware's server virtualization vSphere product.

The changes to Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) are expected to be particularly useful to cloud service providers and companies with hyperscale data centers. To entice those companies to try BCF 3.0, Big Switch also introduced this week pay-as-you-go pricing that covers temporary increases in network capacity.

Big Switch deepened integration between its SDN fabric and vSphere 6 to help cloud providers with customers that want to use the latest version of the VMware product. "This makes it easy for a cloud provider to support multiple instances of vSphere for multiple cloud tenants with one Big Switch network," said Shamus McGillicuddy, analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. (EMA), based in Boulder, Colo.

A cloud provider can use a single BCF controller to provide network automation and provisioning for as many as 20 vSphere instances, which translates into an equal number of cloud tenants, McGillicuddy said.

VSphere's popularity among enterprises makes it "particularly important for Big Switch to gain traction in more mainstream VMware shops," said Andrew Lerner, analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

"These recent announcements from Big Switch indicate they are continuing to evolve and gain traction in a broader set of customer environments," he said.

Latest OpenStack support

Big Switch improved its support for OpenStack by releasing a version of Switch Light vSwitch for the open source cloud platform.  Switch Light vSwitch lets data center operators use the BCF controller to manage the virtual switch layer of an OpenStack deployment.

"You can basically combine virtual and physical switching into one logical network in OpenStack," McGillicuddy said.

Support for OpenStack is growing among SDN vendors. Other companies that have released support for the open source technology include SDN overlay providers, such as Midokura, Nuage Networks and Juniper Networks Inc.

OpenStack is primarily found in the data centers of communication service providers, cable operators and Wall Street financial institutions. However, large enterprises are also interested in the technology. An EMA survey found that 49% of enterprises using or planning to build a software-defined data center expect to adopt OpenStack.

Big Switch competes with small switching fabric providers, such as Pica8 Inc., Cumulus Networks and Pluribus Networks, as well as large networking companies, including Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper. To entice companies to try its technology, Big Switch tinkered with its pricing to make it more appealing to cloud providers.

Customers can opt for an elastic pricing model in which, for example, Big Switch will ship an eight-rack SDN configuration, which includes physical switches, software and support, for the price of a four-rack system. Customers using capacity exceeding their four-rack license pay an additional $599 per switch per month.

Improvements to Big Monitoring Fabric

Along with enhancements to BCF, Big Switch improved its Big Monitoring Fabric, a network packet broker for its SDN environment. The product does packet-based analysis and sends the data to the tools a company uses for monitoring network performance and security.

Big Switch has added features that removes duplicate and irrelevant packets before sending them to monitoring tools to avoid exceeding the latter's capacity. Before the update, such filtering features had to be licensed separately from companies like VSS Monitoring Inc., Gigamon Inc. or Ixia, said McGillicuddy.

"This is them [Big Switch] becoming more directly competitive with those network visibility vendors that are widely used by large enterprises," he said.

Next Steps

Where network fabrics and SDN meet

The battle of SDN versus network fabrics

Differences between SDN and network orchestration

Dig Deeper on Network automation and orchestration

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