Big Switch Networks glues together physical and virtual networks

Open networking needs less DIY

Big Switch Networks has announced its next major revision, with a focus on unifying the physical network and the virtual network.

Speaking to El Reg ahead of the release, CMO Gregg Holzrichter says the next revision is designed to bring virtual networking into line with virtualisation and containers at the server level.

Holzrichter said there's still a disconnect between the compute infrastructure and the underlying network: a sysadmin can spin up new servers in minutes, but networks still take days or weeks to reconfigure.

The integration is delivered by Switch Light OS on the physical switches, talking to Switch Light VX on the KVM servers.

As VP of product management and strategy, Prashant Gandhi explained: “By extending the fabric to not only control the physical network, but also the virtual network and the KVM environment, we provide a physical and virtual fabric that completely enables Neutron networking service in OpenStack.”

Neutron/OpenStack integration provides integration of Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking with distributed virtual routing – meaning the management layer can see both the physical and virtual networks.

The aim, Gandhi said, is “production-grade, resilient OpenStack” with open switches as the hardware.

This is backed by a new management UI that Gandhi said is designed to wean admins off the command-line interface, by giving them “visibility into the operational workflows”.

The other aim is to have a management layer that means networking specialists don't have to do all the operational work. Since “you don't have specialists available all the time”, it's important to simplify operation of the product, Gandhi said.

The other major part of the announcement is a new pricing model designed for customers buying in larger increments than the two-rack or four-rack solutions previously on offer.

The “elastic usage” price model follows the pay-as-you-expand approach becoming common in the networking industry, in which hardware is delivered but not paid for until needed.

BSN's elastic pricing gives users three options for purchase and expansion:

  • Eight racks (19 switches) for $199,000 up front and $599 per activated switch, per month
  • 12 racks (29 switches) for $299,000 and $599 per switch per month
  • 16 racks (38 switches) for $399,000 and $599 per switch per month

To get out of the hyper-scale data centres and into the enterprise, Gandhi said, the world of open compute and open networking needs to become less do-it-yourself and offer more out of the box.

“We believe 2016 is going to be the tipping point from early adopters to early majority,” he said. Through its partnership with Dell, he told The Register, BSN is seeing more conservative customers like manufacturing, retail and healthcare take an interest in the technology.

Comment

BSN's announcement is important for the company and arguably important for the SDN sector as a whole, but it's also a reminder that it's still early days.

The high-speed product evolution is still evidence of an embryonic market and that's still going to give pause to enterprise customers, who by and large like stability in their infrastructure.

On the other hand, however, that same evolution means the vendors playing in the open networking market (and their backers) haven't been daunted by the likes of John Chambers, former Cisco CEO, proclaiming their market a failed experiment.

Gandhi said the open compute and open networking segment has “left the station”, pointing to BSN's market traction.

“Networking is a relatively stagnant market,” he pointed out, but there's enough interest in open SDN approaches that “we have customers purchasing triple-digit licences” – and moving their deployments from labs into production.

El Reg reckons the next proof point for the open networking market as a whole will be to reach a point where its regular updates are incremental rather than revolutionary. That will make for a more boring market, but one with more clout in the IT department. ®




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