Startup Big Switch Tackling Management Challenges With Virtualization


A new Palo Alto, Calif.-based network virtualization startup called Big Switch Networks believes it can pull off a transformation in the networking industry similar to what VMware has achieved in server virtualization.

Big Switch Networks' approach removes the need for administrators to manually configure and manage every device that's connected to the network. Instead, the physical hosts plugged into the network are managed through a virtual network layer that sits on top, which makes it easier to add capacity to the underlying physical topology as needed.

"We think we can deliver the same benefits as VMware in networking," Kyle Forster, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing, said Monday in an interview. "VMware's low cost of ownership has helped drive down the cost of deploying new servers, and in the networking industry it seems that the same should be possible."

All of this happens via the OpenFlow switching protocol, which separates packet routing from the physical infrastructure and handles it on a separate software layer. Big Switch's co-founder is Guido Appenzeller, a Stanford professor who led the research team that developed the OpenFlow v1.0 standard, the reference switch and controller implementations.

Big Switch Networks is in the process of developing an OpenFlow controller and is also "partnering very heavily" with switch vendors, Forster said. Big Switch is building some OpenFlow applications and is working with partners to build others.

"Big Switch is very actively working with a large ecosystem of vendors, and many of them are far larger than us," Forster said. "Networking is a painful stumbling block when you're trying to spread virtualization through a data center."

Forster said Big Switch will present some "very exciting demos" next month at Interop, along with the dozen other 12 OpenFlow vendors that are slated to attend.

"OpenFlow is a big tool kit that can do a lot of things. You will see some very creative uses, and really exciting stuff in network virtualization and what it means to an enterprise," Forster said.

Big Switch Networks scored $13.8 million in venture capital funding last week in a round led by Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures.