Big Switch Ramps up Sales Efforts as Enterprise SDN Adoption Grows

Startup triples sales org, hires new CMO

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

December 29, 2014

3 Min Read
Big Switch Ramps up Sales Efforts as Enterprise SDN Adoption Grows
Bare-metal switches running SDN fabric by Big Switch in the company’s own data center (Source: Big Switch video)

As more enterprises get comfortable with adopting the hyper-scale data center operators’ approach to IT, startups like the software defined network vendor Big Switch are in accelerated growth mode.

Gregg Holzrichter joined Big Switch this month as vice president and chief marketing officer to help the company scale and grow its marketing and sales organization to capture the opportunity. Big Switch recently tripled the size of its sales team and is now in the process of adding marketing support, he said.

Big Switch has a Linux-based network operating system for bare metal and virtual switches called Switch Light, an SDN monitoring solution called Big Tap, and an SDN fabric that creates a virtual network on bare metal switches. It launched the fabric product, called Big Cloud Fabric, in July.

Now that the product line is fleshed out, it’s time to ramp up sales and marketing. Holzrichter considers helping startups scale a personal specialty. He has done this at the software defined storage company Atlantis Computing, where he led marketing before joining Big Switch. He also helped storage virtualization company Virsto Software establish a marketing organization and ultimately sell to VMware in 2013.

Big Switch saw a major uptick in adoption of its technology in the second half of the year, including two $1 million-plus deals, Holzrichter said. One of the two big customers was a financial services company, and the other a software vendor. The company also recently closed its first deal with a higher education institution.

Enterprise SDN Made Easy

Big Switch is making SDN on bare metal switches palatable for traditional enterprises that don’t necessarily have the internal engineering resources web-scale data center operators like Facebook, Google, or Twitter do. Enterprises are interested in this approach because open bare metal switches are cheaper than the proprietary hardware-and-software bundles vendors like HP, Cisco, and Juniper sell.

Companies like Big Switch take all the custom software development work the web-scale approach requires out of the enterprise SDN equation. Big Switch users don’t have to do any development in Puppet or Chef or manage Linux, Holzrichter said.

More Bare Metal Switches on the Market

The business case and the interest is there. The enterprise SDN opportunity is also growing because more and more bare metal network hardware is becoming available. Even some of the “incumbent” vendors have introduced open switches.

Dell now has a line of switches shipping with the Switch Light OS by Big Switch or with Cumulus OS – another Linux-based alternative. Juniper announced plans to ship an open commodity switch in 2015 that will support non-Juniper operating systems.

Dell is a reseller for both Big Tap and Big Cloud Fabric. Big Switch has not done any joint development work with Juniper yet, “but it’s something that we’re working on,” Holzrichter said.

Dell’s open switches cost 15 to 20 percent more than “white box” switches, he said. But they’re still cheaper than the traditional full-package solutions enterprise IT shops are used to buying.

Holzrichter expects more incumbent networking vendors to add similar product lines. “We believe juniper’s not the last of the traditional networking companies that’s going to announce this in 2015,” he said.

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