Even though the SDN market is young, there is already a confusing variety of vendors and products on the market. Where's an interested buyer supposed to start?
Pica8 executives want to simplify the process. The company, which was founded on the basis of being software-focused and hardware-independent, has released a series of reference architectures of how to get going along the SDN pathway -- of course using Pica8's network operating system.
An SDN architecture has three main components, explains Pica8 marketing executive Steve Garrison: A physical switch, a controller and a virtual switch. But there are already dozens of options for customers to select from for each of those components, leading to a long onboarding process of typically between 90 to 100 days, he says. Pica8's published guides show how customers can set up and deploy these virtual networks using Pica8 components and commodity hardware supplied by Quanta Computer, ensuring that customers are not locked into buying expensive proprietary equipment.
Pica8's software, which includes the Open vSwitch (OVS) agent from Nicira, also works with open source controllers from Big Switch Networks, although a variety of other OpenFlow-based controllers, such as Ryu, can be used as well. The idea, Garrison says, is that as SDN adoption continues, "no one controller will be best for every application... no one company will own this market."
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.
Focus: Application-driven network control
Product availability: Became generally available in Q4 of 2012
Funding: $48.5M from North Bridge Venture Partners, Matrix Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners
Management: David Husak, founder and CEO, formerly with 3Com and co-founder of Reva Systems; Ephraim Dobbins, co-Founder and vice president of engineering, formerly with Acme Packet.
Fun fact: The ecommerce portion of the company's website includes items such as a sold out bobblehead of company Husak, as well as a $30 million Plexxi jet.
More information: Plexxi
Plexxi executives say much of the talk about SDNs and virtual networks these days is off the mark.
Instead of just re-architecting the network to make it more elastic, scalable and controlled through software, they say the network should be orchestrated from the top down, by applications telling the network what resources they need and the network automatically provisioning itself. That's what Plexxi says its switches and software combination enable customers to do. "We view ourselves as building a solution based on an SDN foundation," says Mat Matthews, a co-founder and vice president of product marketing.
The software layer collects information about applications, analyzes what network resources it's using and creates algorithms to predict what will be needed. It takes that information and relays it to the underlying integrated network hardware devices made by Plexxi -- mostly switches - that configure the network to the specifications of the applications.