SDN startup adds free entry-level versions of its software-defined networking products to entice new customers.
Big Switch Networks has tried to make it easy for organizations to get started with its SDN products. For more than a year now, it's offered starter kits with switching hardware, software and support for its Big Cloud Fabric platform. It also has an online lab that users can sign up for free to test drive Big Switch software in the cloud. Now, it's going a step further by offering entry-level versions of its software for free.
On Tuesday, Big Switch released "community editions" of its products: Big Cloud Fabric and Big Monitoring Fabric. The software, which Big Switch says is valued at about $30,000, is free for users to download and try out on physical switches in their own data center environment.
There are no time limits on the software license, but the community editions have limited scale compared to the commercial versions. The free version of Big Cloud Fabric supports a single rack while the free Big Monitoring Fabric is designed for a single switch deployment, and out-of-band network monitoring. Hardware compatibility is limited: Big Monitoring Fabric Community Edition works with Accton's AS4600-54T and AS5712-54X switches and a Dell open networking switch, the S4048-ON. The free version of Big Cloud Fabric works with the AS5712-54X and Dell S4048-ON. Users also can't expect much in the way of support, of course.
Big Switch tells me the community editions may be enough for small or midsize organizations, but it expects larger organizations will upgrade to the paid versions. Big Switch, one of the first SDN startups in the market, targets Fortune 2000 companies, large government agencies and carriers.
Big Switch's free software is the latest effort to lure organizations to test out SDN. Other vendors including Pica8, Plexxi and Cisco also offer SDN starter kits. And there are some SDN freebies out there, such as Brocade's free license to manage up to 5 networks nodes with the Brocade SDN Controller for one year.
Cliff Grossner, research director of data center, cloud and SDN at market-research firm IHS told me in November that he expects to see enterprises and data center operators that have had time to test SDN in the lab deploying SDN on a larger scale this year. IHS forecast the market for "in-use" SDN Ethernet switches and controllers used in the data center and enterprise LAN to top $1.4 billion in 2015. By 2019, it estimates that the market will top $12 billion.
Along with its free software, Big Switch unveiled product updates. Big Monitoring Fabric 5.5 features and the Data Plane Development Kit developed by Intel that Big Switch says enables high-end monitoring functionality such as deduplication without relying on custom silicon. It also includes 100 GbE switch support and a new inline mode for enhanced security.
New features with Big Cloud Fabric 5.5 include deeper integration with VMware with a vCenter plug-in and support for vRealize Log Insight.
Last week, Big Switch announced that it raised an additional $48.5 million in venture capital, bringing its total to $94 million.