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Big Switch Unveils 'Open' SDN Architecture

Big Switch Networks, which is considered an early leader in the push for software-defined networking (SDN) based on the Open Flow protocol, is putting its own stake in the ground, declaring its commitment to open standards in developing new technology to bring virtualization to networking environments. This week, to mark its second anniversary, the company announced its Open SDN (a trademarked term) architecture based on 'three pillars' of open standards, open APIs and open source.

Big Switch has been pushing open standards as an alternative to proprietary offerings of networking vendors that wish to retain their market dominance. Open standards also make it easier for new vendors like Big Switch to sell their equipment to interoperate with that of other installed equipment.

Big Switch technology needs to be interoperable with existing equipment in order for it to gain a foothold in the market, says Isabelle Guis, vice president of outbound marketing for the company.

“The customers we talk to have Juniper in their network, they have Dell and they have HP and we want to make sure we work with ... the [existing] network,” she says.

The same goes for open application programming interfaces (APIs) that developers would use to design Open Flow-based applications. Open APIs will enable creation of an “ecosystem of infrastructure, network services and orchestration applications,” the company stated in a news release, to better coordinate compute, storage and networking in a data center or campus network.

And open source is an essential part of the development of any new software environment, such as SDN, whose aim is to create software controllers that would add to the intelligence in network routers and switches in order for those networks to run more efficiently and handle increasingly demanding workloads.

“If you’re looking at a software-defined network and the solution you’re looking into doesn’t have any of these criteria, you are going to have to give up on some of the promise that software-defined networking is,” Guis says.

The OpenFlow protocol has made progress, but to analyst Rohit Mehra, it’s still more of a concept than a reality. "OpenFlow, at its core, I would say, remains a Twitter topic," said the director of enterprise communications infrastructure at the research firm. "We’ve seen some really good use cases, especially in the smaller data centers and in education environments, but I’ve yet to see a lot of traction across the generic enterprise."

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