Big Switch Unifies Physical and Virtual Networks for OpenStack

Big Cloud Fabric 3.0 provides single pane of glass for network management

Michael Vizard

August 18, 2015

3 Min Read
Network cables
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Big Switch Networks today moved to unify the management of physical and virtual OpenStack networking, while at the same time tightening the level of integration it provides with VMware.

In addition, the company is making available packet broker software that runs in real time on its switches, thereby eliminating the need to acquire a dedicated appliance to perform the same function.

Greg Holzrichter, chief marketing officer for Big Switch, said Big Cloud Fabric 3.0 enables IT organizations to deploy a software-defined network that spans both physical switches and the virtual networking services enabled by OpenStack in a way that provides a simpler alternative to directly addressing Neutron, the virtual OpenStack networking services.

“We’re trying to get rid of a lot of the Neutron complexity,” said Holzrichter. “For the first were unifying physical and virtual networking in OpenStack,”

Holzrichter said that via an OpenStack Neutron plug-in Big Cloud Fabric 3.0 now provides a single pane of glass through which IT organizations can manage both a physical and virtual networking environment. At the core of that capability is Switch Light software from Big Switch that can be deployed on open networking switches, known as Switch Light OS, and on virtual servers running the Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) hypervisor, which is marketed as Switch Light VX.

Priced starting at $49,000, Big Cloud Fabric 3.0 provides the management layer that unifies those two OpenStack networking environments.

The new fabric also deepens its native support for VMware by providing support for both NSX-v network virtualization software running on top of VMware vSphere 6 and the distribution of OpenStack that VMware supports on top of VMware vSphere 6, known as VMware Integrated OpenStack. In addition, Big Switch is making available a VMware vCenter GUI plugin and integration with VMware vRealize Log Insight software.

To eliminate the need for separate network monitoring appliances, Big Switch is enhancing its Big Monitoring Fabric software to include a network packet broker (NPB) to make it possible to monitor network traffic in real time. Holzrichter said this capability eliminates the need to buy an expensive appliance, which he said is the primary reason most organizations don’t monitor network packets in real time.

Holzrichter also disclosed that the company intends to add support for Docker containers in the future and will develop a 100G switch at commodity-level price points.

Finally, the company rolled out an elastic pricing model, under which IT organizations can acquire eight racks of switches, but only initially pay, for the example, for the four racks they might use at first. The excess capacity of Elastic SDN Fabric would then be consumed on an as-needed basis for $599 per switch per month.

On the one hand Big Switch is aiming to pioneer the adoption of so-called “white box” switches in the enterprise. But Holzrichter concedes that getting in the data center door more often than not requires interoperability with VMware.

The challenge data center operators going forward will face is to what degree they can strike a balance between open network architectures and the more proprietary legacy networks that today still dominate the data center landscape.

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