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Big Switch pitches third fabric iteration in six months

Adds network analytics, VMWare support

Big Switch Networks is sticking to its start-up sprint, announcing the third iteration of its virtual networking environment since it initial release in July 2014.

The challenge for the company will one day be the same as it is for every once-was-a-startup company: it's far easier to build the momentum that grabs the market share than to seriously dent an incumbent.

In the meantime, the company's hope is that with new network analytics, support for VMWare's hypervisor and Dell picking up its latest code-base, it can start to convert more customers to the idea of running large-scale data centres on bare metal switches and the BSN Big Cloud Fabric software.

With the bare metal switch market on an upswing, various competitive responses are emerging – subscription-based hardware sales to cut down on the capex associated with a proprietary switch, and more fabric-like management architectures.

CEO Doug Murray told The Register that while competitive responses to the bare-metal model are emerging from the industry's incumbents, some are responding by entering the bare metal market themselves.

For example, Juniper Networks is putting forward its own Open Compute play (the OCX, discussed in this company blog post) which can run a customer's own network operating system.

And there's Dell, which last year added Big Switch to its switch offerings.

Murray said while the “subscription hardware” could challenge the bare metal capex advantage, Big Switch is also pitching operational savings from operating all switches as part of a fabric.

That, he said, gives customers the kind of centralised control that kicked off projects like Google's project Andromeda and Facebook's open compute platform: “you don't have to manage each box individually – you manage the whole data centre network as one logical entity.”

Incumbents find this difficult to replicate quickly: “They have a legacy business and a code base that sits on their switches.”

Six months out from the original release of Big Cloud Fabric, the analytics in the BCF 2.5 release maintain the all-one-fabric approach to management, but gather more detailed data on devices within the fabric.

The analytics combines log views with a central repository that drags together fabric data based on endpoints, devices, tenants, segments, and the CPU / memory utilisation of individual switches.

In other words, having disdained the switch-by-switch hierarchy of traditional network management, the company is now finding itself asked by customers to give them more ability to drill down.

Murray told Vulture South this is part of what customers were asking for: “a tab in the GUI that gives you visual information about what's happened in the fabric.

“People want to see everything that's going on in the fabric,” he said. “If there's a performance degradation, for example, what was happening at the time?”

The sysadmin will want to know which switch is running at the most capacity, he said, to prove what's going on, or would want to know which devices and ports a packet traversed in a data centre.

Murray asserted that the only similar capability in the market is in Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure, and that in the long run, Big Switch wants to be “the alternative to Cisco”.

The third part of the release is support for VMWare environments. The rational was simple: customers that were already VMWare shops wanted the network orchestration to co-exist with existing VCenter and VSphere environments.

The company's release is here. ®


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