7. Big Switch Networks
2011 was a big year for Big Switch Networks . The Palo Alto, Calif.-based cloud and virtualization startup, which said it aims to be the VMware for networking, recently raked $13.8 million in venture capital funding to continue its charge and sharpen its OpenFlow chops. Big Switch offers an OpenFlow-based platform that brings the benefits of virtualization and cloud architecture to enterprise networks. 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. This is done using the OpenFlow switching protocol, which separates packet routing from the physical infrastructure and handles it on a separate software layer.