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Big Switch Networks is a company in the Software Defined Network (SDN) area with a clear declared mission: to bring hyperscale networking to a broader audience, by delivering fit-for-purpose products based on hyperscale networking technologies.

They have two main products: Big Tap Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric. The first one is an entry level solution for monitoring existing networks, the second one is an advanced bare-metal SDN switching fabric intended for new data center pods such as private cloud, big data and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

First version of Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) was announced on July 2014 and the second version (2.0) on September 2014. Now they are announcing that Big Cloud Fabric 2.5 will become generally available on January, 28th 2015.

But first of all what is bare-metal SDN? Probably most people are thinking about VMware NSX (and the genesys of Big Switch and Nicira was similar, coming from similar research) as the main model of SDN, but it’s more a model of Network Virtualization. Formally NSX (or other similar solutions) provides an overlay at the top of the physical infrastructure.

The bare-metal switches are built on merchant silicon that may provide fewer features than proprietary chips but enable a lower-cost and more flexible switching alternative. White box switches are poised to be open enough to allow network vendors and users to choose their network operating system, depending on their organization’s needs.

A bare-metal SDN provide and underlying of the network (that not necessary exclude an overlay of it).

Big Cloud Fabric delivers on the promise of an hyper-scale (bare-metal) SDN: Open, Flexible, Scalable, Economical.

The main components of Big Cloud Fabric are:

  • Big Cloud Fabric Controller – a logically centralized and hierarchically implemented SDN controller implemented as a cluster of virtual machines or hardware appliances for high availability (HA)
  • Bare Metal Leaf and Spine Switch Hardware –  a variety of switch HW configurations (10G/40G) and vendors are available on the Big Switch hardware compatibility list
  • Switch Light OS –  a bare metal switch OS purpose built for SDN
  • Switch Light vSwitch (optional) –  a high performance SDN vSwitch for Unified P+V Clos designs
  • OpenStack Plug-In (optional) –  a Neutron plug-in or ML2 DriverMechanism for integration with various distributions of OpenStack

In the new release BCF 2.5 will include:

  • New physical box (Dell Brite Box, mainly a whitebox version for the Force10 series)
  • Support for VMware vSphere environments, KVM, Hyper-V, Xen and Non-Virtualized Workloads
  • Multi-Orchestration (included vCenter, Mirantis and Juno)
  • Integration with CloudStack (and not only OpenStack)
  • Introduction of BSN’s Fabric Analytics feature family with detail of the entire network environment
  • New channel program

Considering the grow of the Network Virtualization aspects, there is still place for this kind of SDN? Probably due to the grow of the Network Virtualization and their lack of a deep monitoring the the physical layer the bare-metal switches may have a big attrative.

And it’s curios that actually a great market of Big Switch is in Asia (with a new office in Japan) where probably this kind of approarch become more useful.

For more information about Big Switch, there are a lot of video and material available on the Tech Field Day page.



Virtualization, Cloud and Storage Architect. Tech Field delegate. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert 2010-24. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014-15. Microsoft MVP 2014-16. Veeam Vanguard 2015-23. Nutanix NTC 2014-20. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.