Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, July 22, 2024

Dell Advances Open Networks With Big Switch Deal 

Dell is joining forces with software-defined networking specialist Big Switch Networks to advance its open networking initiative that aims to shake up the traditional networking switch model.

Dell has inked a reseller agreement with Big Switch Networks that the company said would extend its drive to forge a disaggregated platform for networking hardware and software.

The move seeks to capitalize on the shift within datacenters from fixed, proprietary networks toward more agile software-defined networks. The trend toward open networking promises to ease the deployment and provisioning of network services while improving performance, Dell argues.

Startup Big Switch Networks specializes in combining commodity Ethernet switch hardware, also known as bare metal switches, with advanced SDN control software. Its networking fabrics are used in datacenters for network automation. Among the company's investors are Goldman Sachs, Intel Capital, and Khosla Ventures.

The deal calls for the partners to develop next-generation fabric switches that would help run future software-defined datacenters. Dell said it would offer Big Switch Networks' Switch Light operating system on its Ethernet switches starting with the Dell S4810 and S6000.

Dell will also supply its partner's SDN controller applications beginning with an SDN-based networking monitor called Big Tap.


The resulting SDN-enabled fabric-monitoring product would help flesh out Dell open networking push by expanding Ethernet switch hardware options along with OS and SDN applications. Dell inked a similar deal with Cumulus Networks, another network operating system provider, back in January.

The partners are pitching their monitoring solution to enterprises that are contemplating their initial software-defined network deployments. They stressed that it operates on the monitoring network and can be deployed incrementally.

“The early adopters of SDN were largely the hyper scale players," Douglas Murray, CEO of Big Switch Networks, said in a statement. The deal with Dell "will bring hyper scale datacenter design and choice to a broader audience." Company executives argued that costly software development has limited SDN deployments for the vast majority of datacenter architects.

In a blog post announcing its partnership with Dell, Big Switch executives maintained that early SDN deployment models combined once vendor's network controller with a hybrid switch OS from another. That often resulted in designs that were "challenged in scale and resiliency."

The open model promoted by Dell and its partners combines controller and corresponding switch OS from Big Switch and Dell's hardware.

Dell argues that its open initiative offers an alternative to "bare-metal" and, at the other extreme, "black box" switching in which hardware and software are provided by a single vendor. It claims an open approach can reduce capital investment in switching hardware while delivering lower operational costs than "bare metal" switching.

Dell said it expects to begin offering Dell-branded switches based on Switch Light OS and Big Tap monitoring during the second quarter of 2014.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).