Today, we announced a partnership with Dell to create an SDN choice in their open networking initiative.  Big Switch’s Switch Light SDN Operating System will run on Dell ethernet switching hardware lines (S4810-ON and S6000-ON initially), and Dell will resell hardware/software/services solutions that include Switch Light and Big Switch’s SDN Controllers.  

Clearly, this is another inflection point for Big Switch, but it is also an inflection point for the emerging SDN ecosystem.  To date, most successful SDN deployments have been in hyper scale data centers, and have required software development investment that is out of reach for the next 99% of data center architects.  That is rapidly changing.  Dell has a long history of taking lessons learned from hyper scale architects and packaging them for a broader audience.  We see this partnership tee’ing them up for another success in this vein.

The expectation that this partnership will accelerate SDN deployments becomes immediately apparent to anyone who boots up one of Dell’s open networking switches.  The user decides between traditional switching and SDN out of the box, and can change his/her mind any time.  This leads to a pragmatic roadmap -- use SDN for monitoring networks (now) and data center fabrics (soon), and use the traditional switching OS elsewhere until appropriate SDN controllers are available.

The first joint Dell-BSN solution is based on the Big Tap Monitoring Fabric, developed in partnership with some of the world’s largest network operators, available from Dell next quarter.  A scale-out, flexible and cost effective approach to monitoring fabrics, this SDN solution uses Dell ethernet switch hardware and Big Switch controller and OS software to connect network taps to offline performance monitoring, security and troubleshooting tools, connecting any tap to any tool at any time.  As an offline fabric, it is low risk entry point for organizations interested in starting with SDN with first line support provided by Dell.

Why now?  Early SDN models attempted to combine a controller from one vendor and a hybrid switch OS from another.  Resource contention in switch hardware, minimal offload from controller to switch and engineering impracticality resulted in designs that were challenged in scale and resiliency.  A far more productive model is emerging, one in which the controller and a corresponding switch OS comes from one vendor while hardware, and in this case services, comes from another.

This new model has taken modern software components, a number of vendor-neutral organizations, a few key partners, a few visionary customers and a lot of learning from earlier chapters of SDN to come to fruition.  This is an exciting time to be in networking.


  • Tom Burns (GM, Dell Networking) and Doug Murray (CEO) on the announcement: Watch Video
  • Jeff Townsend (Big Switch Engineering) Showing the Switch Light OS on the Dell S4810: Watch Video
  • Rich Groves (Former Architect at Microsoft) on SDN Monitoring Fabrics: Watch Video
  • Dell/Big Switch Big Tap Monitoring Fabric Solution: Read Brief
  • Rob Sherwood (CTO) on Modern SDN at ONS 2014: Watch Video
  • Rob Sherwood (CTO) on Modern SDN and Open Source Components on BrightTalk: Watch Webinar
  • Prashant Gandhi (VP Product Mgmt and Strategy) on Next Generation Monitoring: Read BSN Blog
  • Prashant Gandhi (VP Product Mgmt and Strategy) on Big Tap Monitoring Fabrics v3.0: Read BSN Blog
  • Dell Press Release: Click Here
  • Big Switch Press Release: Click Here

--Kyle Forster, Big Switch Co-Founder / VP Marketing