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Big Switch Unveils Flagship Datacenter SDN Fabric

Company seeks to combine software-defined networking benefits with less expensive bare-metal switches.

Big Switch Networks Inc. today introduced a new datacenter fabric designed to combine the operational benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) with the economics of bare-metal commodity switches.

The company said the new Big Cloud Fabric will be its flagship product as it seeks to make hyperscale networking technologies more accessible to organizations of all sizes.

Building on top of its existing Big Tap monitoring fabric, Big Cloud Fabric is designed for organizations building out new networking pods in existing datacenters. A networking fabric can be described as the grouping of resources such as controllers or other software, the hardware on which it runs and the complex, any-to-any network connection architecture binding them together. A pod is described by the company as a static unit of networking, compute and storage resources attached to the routed core network of a datacenter. Such pods could include a private cloud, Big Data cluster or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation, which have been used in existing datacenters as part of the product's beta testing by 10 customers.

The Big Cloud Fabric consists of: an SDN controller designed for high availability through implementation as a cluster of virtual machines (VMs) or hardware appliances; bare-metal leaf and spine switches available from various vendors; and the company's Switch Light OS for bare-metal switches. Optional components include the high-performance Switch Light vSwitch, for unified P+V Clos designs and a Neutron OpenStack plug-in or ML2 DriverMechanism for integrating with different OpenStack distributions.

Big Cloud Fabric components.
[Click on image for larger view.] Big Cloud Fabric Components. (source: Big Switch Networks Inc.)

"It's designed for 10G and 40G scale and resiliency, featuring headless mode high availability, zero-touch provisioning, L2/3 forwarding options, application-centric policy and service chaining," said company CEO Doug Murray in a blog post. "Management is available via OpenStack, Cloudstack, REST, CLI or GUI."

Big Cloud Fabric comes in two editions:
  • P-Clos Edition: a physical leaf-and-spine fabric for a wide range of datacenter environments, including KVM/OVS, ESX, Hyper-V, bare metal or a mixture of these.
  • Unified P+V Clos Edition: a physical-plus-virtual fabric in which leaf, spine and vSwitches are controlled by the new product's controller.

Murray said a pod built with Big Cloud Fabric provides a modern application/tenant configuration; a large reduction in the number of needed management consoles; integrated workflows for teams doing networking, security or auditing; and capital expenditure savings.

The company also announced a new version of its entry-level networking monitoring application -- Big Tap 4.0 -- to be released this quarter. It features a new use case, the tapping of distributed, remote datacenters. It includes a better filtering feature set, such as deeper packet matching that can be used for tunneled packets used in mobile protocols and Virtual Extensible LANs (VXLANs).

"Networking has seen more architectural innovation in the last few years than in the past two decades as companies look to create more agile, flexible networks with SDN," the company quoted ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall as saying. "However, making the leap to new hyperscale SDN solutions can be challenging for organizations with legacy infrastructure. Big Tap offers a simple, high-value entry point for customers to warm up to SDN and get comfortable. Now Big Cloud Fabric at the core can help mitigate risk for customers and enable a seamless transition to SDN."

Big Cloud Fabric can be ordered now, but will ship later this quarter.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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