Monday, 14 August 2017 16:10

Big Switch Networks automates SDN

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Big Switch Networks aims to bring velocity to data centres, explained vice-president of product management and chief product officer Prashant Gandhi, especially when it comes to security, provisioning and other traditionally highly manual tasks.

The idea is to make data centres intent-driven, he said, hiding the complexity much like a car does. If you want to go faster, you press the accelerator and the underlying adjustments (the amount of fuel and air, ignition timing, transmission settings and so on) happen automatically.

Big Switch Networks' software-defined networking architecture allows switches from various networks to be connected into a fabric that behaves as one big switch (hence the name), with a controller that can handle the configuration corresponding to a particular intent.

It provides "scale-out operation without adding extra complexity,"Gandhi said.

This easily handles public, private and hybrid clouds, he said, and is the right approach for the next few years of networking.

For example, the company's Big Monitoring Fabric makes it possible to monitor two or three times more traffic on a given budget by using low-cost commodity hardware rather than proprietary gear.

With this arrangement, security tools can be connected to the fabric rather than to individual systems, simplifying changes and allowing traffic to be directed to different tools in the chain according to its characteristics – eg, traffic originating from "risky" countries might be subjected to greater scrutiny.

An oil and gas company has deployed Big Monitoring Fabric across many data centres in multiple countries, Gandhi said, and is still able to manage it all from one location despite going from three to five security tools. It's "very simple to deploy, very easy to operate", he said.

There's also the Big Secure Architecture, which is designed to address problems such as DDoS attacks. Rather than spending a lot of money ahead of time, this provides for the automatic detection of attacks, prompting the controller to divert traffic to virtual mitigation appliances (currently A10 vThunder appliances running on commodity x86 hardware).

Detecting, redirecting, scaling out, load balancing and mitigation in this way requires the combination of SDN and security tools, Gandhi said.

This approach is good for telcos, MSPs and cloud providers, he pointed out, as they have the network capacity to handle massive amounts of attack traffic while allowing genuine traffic to reach the appropriate systems.

Local customers are mostly in state and federal government, banking, and cloud services, plus "a really large research organisation", said ANZ managing director Steve Coad. "A lot of RFPs (for SDN) are coming into the market," he added.

Internationally, the company has customers in more than 25 countries, including 10 of the 15 largest telcos, as well as Microsoft and Intuit.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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