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Q&A: Kyle Forster from Big Switch Networks Talks Open SDN Architecture

Big Switch Networks made an interesting ecosystem announcement around support for Big Switch Networks' open software defined networking (Open SDN) architecture.  To find out more, I was able to speak with Kyle Forster, co-founder of Big Switch Networks.

VMblog.com:  Since its January launch, Big Switch Networks' Floodlight has received more than 4,000 downloads -- which seems pretty high.  What do you think people are looking for, or more specifically, what are the trends in the market that's moving more people to SDNs?

Kyle Forster:  Actually, we think 4k is a conservative estimate -- OpenFlowHub, the site dedicated to hosting OpenFlow open source projects, is getting 28k visitors per month, most of whom are coming for Floodlight.

If we look at mailing list traffic, we assume that most active users are spread between three camps. The first and largest is different vendors, large and small, doing early investigations about building products. Looking at the diversity of projects that have hit our desks in the last few months since launch, we think we've unleashed a big innovation engine with this codebase. The second is network engineers and architects with a specific (generally small) problem to solve in a production network and a do-it-yourself attitude. A lot of these end in success, and some end in commercial discussions. The third is academic researchers looking to prove and publish, a contingent that has always been a part of the OpenFlow/SDN community. Most interestingly, while the numbers are small, the mailing lists show employees from three of the world's largest ten data centers.

VMblog.com:  For those that may not know about it, can you explain the OpenSDN Architecture?

Kyle Forster:  The Open SDN Architecture is our vision for a modernization of the networking ecosystem. The architecture is built on three key pillars: 1) Open Source, 2) Open APIs and 3) Open Standards. These are the foundations of modern server operating system ecosystem, allowing products from different vendors to peacefully co-exist with fast paced community innovation in the backdrop of a very high degree of interoperability, none of which are aspects one would attribute to today's datacenter switching and routing ecosystem.

VMblog.com:  And what does the interoperability testing mean for users?

Kyle Forster:  It means freedom of choice and peace of mind. We see a very wide range of price/performance/features offered in the OpenFlow switches that are starting to come to market today, and knowing that they are all interoperable with both our commercial and open source controller gives users the peace of mind that they won't be constraining their future designs when they make decisions today.

VMblog.com:  What are the most common use cases you are seeing?

Kyle Forster:  There are four early markets forming for SDN, each with their own speed and use cases: 1) the hyper scale datacenter market (Google, Rackspace, etc) - this was the market that originally funded SDN research four years ago, 2) the enterprise datacenter market, 3) the service provider / telco WAN market and 4) the campus LAN market. At Big Switch, we focus on the enterprise datacenter market. Specifically, we get called in when server virtualization projects are growing out of a current networking designs. Our customers have a diverse array of problems that they are trying to solve with network virtualization, but there is one common theme: the network design they had for server virtualization over the last few years doesn't match with where they want to go with their server virtualization builds in 2013.

VMblog.com:  Ok, so what's next for Big Switch Networks?

Kyle Forster:  We are lining up both our customers and partners for a public launch of our network virtualization application, the Big Virtual Switch. However, as evidenced by this latest release, we are a partner-heavy ecosystem company rather than a go-it-alone kind of company. As a result, we have quite a few cats to herd to make sure that the ecosystem goes to market in a cohesive manner - a bunch of OpenFlow switches without an SDN controller don't make much sense, ditto an SDN controller without a range of compatible physical and hypervisor switches.

###

Thanks to Kyle Forster, co-founder of Big Switch Networks, for speaking with me.

Published Friday, May 04, 2012 7:22 AM by David Marshall
Comments
The Philter - (Author's Link) - May 11, 2012 5:04 PM
Light Reading - The Philter - OpenFlow, SDN & an Industry Uprising - (Author's Link) - May 11, 2012 5:04 PM
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