Intel invests in SDN pioneer Big Switch Networks

Chip maker hopes to use SDN tech to find new uses for its chipsets

Intel Capital has invested in software-defined networking company Big Switch Networks, as it hopes to help the company change the way data centers are networked.

Intel Capital is looking for companies that are creating the most disruptive data center products, and Big Switch Networks' Open Software-Defined Networking suite fits the bill, according to managing director Bryan Wolf .

Big Switch is a pioneer and driving force behind the use of the OpenFlow protocol, which co-founder and CEO Guido Appenzeller was instrumental in helping develop.

OpenFlow allows centralized controllers, which typically run on a standard server, to modify the behavior of hardware and software-based network devices through well-defined forwarding instructions, according to the Open Networking Foundation.

Big Switch's product suite consists of the Big Network Controller, Big Virtual Switch application and monitoring application Big Tap.

For Intel its important to find new product segments for its chipsets, as the PC market is floundering and its push into the tablet and smartphone market has yet to yield any significant gains. Software-defined networking is one such segment. The investment in Big Switch isn't the first time Intel has shown an interest; at IDF in September it demonstrated a switch reference design code-named Seacliff Trail.

This week has seen support for OpenFlow gather momentum with products from Dell and Cisco Systems

Dell announced the commercial availability of OpenFlow for its FTOS (Force10 operating system) code base, which now powers the Dell Z9000 and S4810 data center switches and is compatible with the Big Network Controller. The company also presented the S4820T switch, which uses FTOS, as well.

Cisco Systems announced new products to fill out its ONE programmable networking strategy, including the ONE Controller, which is compatible with OpenFlow. The networking giant is also organizing an online seminar next week, where the company will give its take on the protocol.

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