May was a busy month for joint Big Switch Networks / Dell EMC activities. Early in the second week, thousands of IT professionals, press and analysts descended on Las Vegas for Dell EMC World, the newly merged mega-conference. This marked the first time all Dell Technologies’ brands (Dell, EMC, VMware, RSA) were under one roof at a tradeshow. While Dell was already seen as an important consumer and enterprise player prior to EMC acquisition, the show clearly presented them in a leader role. The newly minted Dell EMC is a true IT powerhouse, announcing new products for consumer, traditional and hyper-converged storage, next-generation servers and, last but not least, networking.
With Realize being the theme of the show, there was a lot of focus on ready-to-deploy solutions that let organizations fully realize business potential — as opposed to DIY, box-by-box alternatives that leave IT admins playing catch up and users frustrated with poor service. From VxRail to VxRack and everything in between, it was about getting from zero to Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).
For many admins, internal processes already slow them down, so technology needs to accelerate the transition to SDDC, not act as an additional bottleneck. For IT to be modernized, it’s very clear that all pieces of infrastructure need to evolve. After all, it doesn’t make sense to buy a 4K monitor to connect to a decade-old computer. Likewise, next-generation storage and computing need next-generation networking to realize their full potential.Team Big Switch getting ready to kick off Dell EMC 2017
Big Switch & Dell EMC – Next-generation DC Networking
With Dell EMC Open Networking as the foundation, Big Switch showcased Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) as a next-generation data center network and Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF) as a next-generation monitoring & security network. The reception Big Switch received on the show floor was impressive. Over many conversations with attendees (including partners, users, and Dell network sales engineers), it became clear that Big Switch is becoming well known in the Dell EMC community. Even those who had not heard of us still realize that network transformation is no longer a question of "if" but "how." One statement I heard over and over on the show floor was, "My Dell rep said I need to come talk to Big Switch. Tell me what you guys do." Even a storage-only admin, knowing very little about networking, became increasingly excited as we talked through Big Cloud Fabric’s capabilities to mitigate the divide between traditional IT storage and networking teams and integrate tightly with hyperconverged infrastructure such as VMware vSAN.
Doing a mini-presentation for Dell EMC World attendees at the Big Switch booth
Network admins now realize that whether the network is carrying traffic for big data, overlays, virtual machines or containers, it’s time to embrace simplicity over the box-by-box complexity of legacy physical networks. Converged IT admins responsible for networking, servers and storage were also speaking with Big Switch to see how our solutions could be deployed. Additionally, we saw excitement from VARs and SIs who were interested in offering a simpler and more cost-effective alternative to traditional DC fabrics and network packet broker solutions. Aside from all the great technical conversations in the booth, we contributed to two other events at the show:
Big Switch at Dell EMC Europe Network Technology Bootcamp
After a great show in Vegas, it was off to Europe for training with the Dell EMC sales force. I and a few of my colleagues attended Dell EMC’s European Network Technology Bootcamp held in Dublin, Ireland. Dell Networking consultants from all over Europe and the Middle East immersed themselves in deep technical training on Dell EMC Open Networking solutions, including updates from partners such as Big Switch Networks. As internal discussions on strategy and hardware roadmaps got deeper, so did the desire for the attendees to find the right operating system for these new platforms.
Dell EMC Dublin campus where the European Network Technology Bootcamp was held
The Big Switch presentations generated lively discussions on our data center and security fabric use cases, but the team was particularly excited about a hands-on lab and a chance to build two Big Cloud Fabric pods from scratch, deploying vCenter integration for network automation and interconnecting those pods with VXLAN.
Unlike our BSN Labs, which offer a chance to configure BCF or BMF through a pre-scripted workflow, here the team did all the operations without written instructions. The goal was to simulate a chaotic POC environment (where many things can go wrong) before Dell EMC and Big Switch Network’s sales engineers save the day and bring the POC online. The team handled this task perfectly and by the end of the day, we had two BCF pods up, connected using VXLAN, and passing traffic back and forth.
After discussing Big Switch solutions with attendees at Dell EMC World and going deeper on Big Cloud Fabric and Big Monitoring Fabric with Dell EMC sales engineers, the remainder of my time in May was dedicated to customers. I presented at multiple extended customer briefings that lasted for several hours and included technical presentations and demos from Big Switch and Dell EMC. The joint Big Switch/Dell EMC team was comprised of sales engineers, technical marketing engineers, product managers and sales managers.
Insurance Company Product Briefing – One of the meetings we had with a major insurance company touched on a recurring topic from potential customers—their box-by-box production DC network, based on legacy technology from a major incumbent networking vendor, had simply become inadequate for the thousands of VMware vSphere workloads hosted across multiple national datacenters. Their impending move towards containers would not be possible without an overhaul. The company’s DMZ also needed to be modernized from a static daisy-chained IPS + DDOS + SSL tool configuration to a more dynamic and flexible architecture, such as the one offered by Big Monitoring Fabric Inline. They wanted to hear from Big Switch because their incumbent vendor was pitching the same old complex network, which was the catalyst for them to explore an alternative. They were very impressed with the flexibility and breadth of capabilities that Dell EMC and Big Switch had to offer.
Transportation and Logistics Company Product Briefing – Another prospective customer we met with, a large American transportation and logistics company, was also ready to replace its aging network infrastructure in two data centers. While looking at Big Switch and an alternate, legacy vendor in parallel, they immediately noticed the simplicity that Big Cloud Fabric offers. Where the legacy vendor was forcing them to change how they operate in their IT environment by following new workflows, Big Cloud Fabric demonstrated that it could let the company move as fast as it wanted to in its journey towards SDDC.
It’s important to note that despite the risk-averse nature of both companies, the maturity of Big Switch’s offering allowed us to be considered for transformational projects for their businesses.
This was a snapshot of my May with Dell EMC. Here’s a to a summer full of traditional network disruption and new customer adoption for Dell EMC and Big Switch Networks.
Arkadiy ShapiroPrincipal Technical Marketing Engineer, Big Switch Networks