Big Switch Networks' SDN Controller Gets OpenStack Plugin

It's a significant move for how it opens Floodlight to the OpenStack developer community, which includes more than 180 companies and some 3,000 individual developers. There's a natural overlap between development on the OpenStack standard as a scalable cloud operating system and the SDN trend, which pushes greater programmability and flexibility in virtualized networks, said Mike Cohen, Big Switch product manager.

"This is the support of virtual networking on OpenStack clouds," Cohen told CRN this week. "Floodlight has done a great job for us of attracting SDN developers. OpenStack has attracted a broad range of cloud developers, and the virtualization community is also rallying around it. You bring these two communities together in the cloud world and you create a foundation."

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Big Switch in January released the source code for Floodlight in hopes of catalyzing app development around the controller. Floodlight is offered under the Apache 2.0 open source license and was based on Beacon, a previous controller built in Java and developed by David Erickson, a Big Switch Networks advisor.

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Big Switch told CRN that a commercial version of Floodlight is also in the works, expected for release later in 2012.

Floodlight's OpenStack support comes from Quantum, a network technology for connecting interface devices that are managed by OpenStack services. OpenStack users will be able to create and manage virtual networks using both hypervisor-based and physical OpenFlow switches managed by Floodlight.

"You have Quantum, which is a networking abstraction without a physical implementation," Cohen said. "Well, Floodlight is going to be that physical implementation."

Since the January release, Floodlight has been being downloaded more than 1,200 times per month and seeing code contributions from developers on four continents, Cohen said.

There's also an emerging startup ecosystem of new companies building technology on top of the controller. One is vArmour, the network virtualization security company founded by NetScreen veterans, which demonstrated its technology interacting with Floodlight during April's Open Networking Summit.

Big Switch hasn't yet formalized a commercial channel strategy, Cohen said, but its Floodlight developer community does include VARs and integrators as well as major vendors with an interest in SDN, such as IBM, which has contributed code.

Founded in 2010, Big Switch has attracted executive talent from vendors such as Avaya, VMware and Arista Networks and is part of an emerging class of startup SDN vendors engaging software developers and readying commercial go-to-market strategies.