SDN Watch: Pica8 Takes Reference Architecture Approach3:21 PM EST Mon. Dec. 10, 2012
Pica8, another emerging player in the crowded market for software-defined networking (SDN) startups, on Monday confirmed what it's calling an "open SDN reference architecture" -- a blueprint for cloud providers to combine switches with an OS and an OpenFlow controller.
Founded in 2009 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., Pica8 (pronounced "pee-ka eight") was spun out of server vendor Quanta in January 2012. Its SDN approach centers on a virtualized network switch that can handle comparable workloads to Cisco and other incumbent network players' switches for a lot less investment. It builds its physical switches using merchant silicon as opposed to ASICs, with the idea being to enable software that sits on top of those switches and performs the necessary SDN functions.
"What we've had with SDN so far is way too much marketing and not enough clarity," Steve Garrison, vice president of product marketing at Pica8, told CRN. "By putting reference architectures out there, we're showing how the platform gets built. This first one is basically these white-boxed switches used with our operating system."
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Pica8's reference architecture uses a virtual switch, the Open vSwitch 1.7.1, and version 1.2 of the OpenFlow protocol in an operating system called PicOS. It then leverages the Ryu 1.4 OpenFlow Controller, designed by NTT Laboratories specific for SDN deployments.
Pica8 is approaching the market using a model similar to Red Hat's, Garrison said, in that the company built open source platforms and market momentum using reference architectures to see what worked and tailoring its products and go-to-market strategy to fit how customers responded.
Brad Casemore, research director for data center networks at IDC, said that by offering integrated SDN components, Pica8 makes testing, validation and deployment of SDN architecture easier on provider customers.
"Cloud service providers are drawn to SDN for its technological, operational and business benefits," he said in a statement.
Expect more reference architectures and Pica8 use cases in the new year, Garrison said, as well as discussion from Pica8 on how to transition a lot of the SDN hype into actionable proof of concepts for customers.
"We do believe there is going to be an SDN shakeout, and really, an SDN chasm," he said. "But we have a business model based on a product that will sell into the Ethernet, top-of-rack, infrastructure market worth about $4 billion. There's a lot to go after here."
Garrison, a 20-year technology veteran who held global marketing positions at the likes of Infoblox, Force10 Networks and Riverstone Networks, is part of an accomplished executive team at the startup. CEO and co-founder James Liao was previously head of product strategy for switching and data center products at Quanta, while Lin Du, co-founder and vice president of engineering, headed engineering at Woven Systems.
Other heavy hitters include Dean Au, vice president of business development and previously CEO of AirMagnet and Cinco Networks, and Henry Pan, previously director of sales at Quanta and now vice president of Pica8's pacific sales and operations. Pan, along with new North American sales leader Matt Hammel and chief architect David Liu, joined the company this month.
As for a channel strategy, Pica8 is already working with partners in key vertical markets such as research and education. Its PicOS system is available under a licensing model similar to MySQL, in which one GPLv2 version is available for the developer community and OEMs; ISVs and VARs that don't want to obtain it that way can obtain a commercial license directly from Pica8.
With SDN's role in the channel becoming an increasingly important topic, expect a build-out of Pica8's go-to-market strategy for partners in the coming months, said Garrison.
"No VAR is going to pick us up as yet another switch if they don't hear some kind of future-proofing story and they don't have something to sell," Garrison said. "I've never seen the market go so crazy on terminology before a value prop was even defined. SDN is still very amorphous."
PUBLISHED DEC. 10, 2012