SDN Start-Ups You Will Hear About In 2013 – Snapshots of Big Switch, Contrail, Embrane and Lyatiss

SDN Start-Ups Big Switch Contrail Embrane Lyatiss

This is the final part in multi-part series of posts on the leading SDN Startups. If you missed the rest, you can find them here:
Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 - Plexxi, Plumgrid, Pluribus and Vello
Part 3 - Midokura, Pertino, and Pica8



SDN Start-Ups Reference Big Switch

Figure 7 – Big Switch Networks Architecture

Big Switch Networks offers a controller and two SDN applications: Big Tap and Big Virtual Switch (their network virtualization application). The commercial controller is based on an open source code (Floodlight) enhanced for high performance, high availability and other functionalities. Two northbound APIs are available one on the controller itself suited for network services and one more abstracted on top of Big Virtual Switch for more advanced applications like orchestration. The southbound API is based on OpenFlow and support both physical and virtual switches.

It is worth noting that Big Switch Networks is the only start-up offering an SDN controller supporting physical switches but not manufacturing its own networking device. In addition of the usual network virtualization, they also offer a non-intrusive application (Big Tap, an out-of-band network monitoring) that only requires the addition of OpenFlow-enabled switches (no upgrade or replacement of core switches already deployed). Finally they have one of the most developed ecosystem of partners on both the southbound and northbound APIs.




SDN Start-Ups Reference Contrail Systems

Figure 8 – Contrail Systems Architecture

Contrail Systems offers Network Virtualization via at a Layer 3 overlay level and can communicate with any infrastructure device supporting the new IETF Draft (BGP-signaled end-system IP/VPNs draft-marques-l3vpn-end-system). They also offer an agent hosted on virtual switches. In addition of network virtualization, network services such as load balancing and firewall are available. An open API allows for 3rd party to add their applications or to integrate with orchestration applications such as OpenStack.

It is worth noting that Contrail offers their solution as software on premise but also in the cloud and that a Layer-3 approach compare to a Layer-2 overlay allows for network appliances already in the infrastructure to be reused easily.

Note that since I started working on this blog, Contrail Systems has been acquired by Juniper Networks.



SDN Start-Ups Reference Embrane

Figure 9 – Embrane Architecture

Embrane provides network services and a solution to orchestrate them that runs on top of both traditional and software-defined networks. It optimizes the delivery of L3-7 network services from Embrane (load balancer, firewall/VPN) or 3rd parties and allows charging for these services based on subscription, usage or perpetual licensing. Their solution can run in both Citrix and VMware environments.

Unlike other start-ups, Embrane does not configure or change the underlying infrastructure (traditional or virtualized). This explains why in the past they claimed not to be an SDN company, to highlight this difference. But, in my opinion, they definitely contribute to make networks more software-defined. It is worth noting that Embrane can run on any existing infrastructure (e.g. switches, routers) and with any deployed network appliance as they focus solely on network services and their usage optimization.


SDN Start-Ups Reference Lyatiss

Figure 10 – Lyatiss Architecture

Lyatiss’ solution interfaces any network software used in cloud deployments. It optimizes traffic between storage and computer resources of public or private clouds in order to optimize application performance and availability as well as cost for customers using multiple cloud providers in different geographic zones or for different applications.

It is worth noting that Lyatiss focuses on the logic behind the existence of a flow (i.e. why and how applications are accessing computer and storage resources) as well as different cloud providers’ billing and performance systems to dynamically adapt the cloud subscription. Unlike many SDN start-ups, Lyatiss does not change the infrastructure itself (i.e. configuration of the switches) but acts through the cloud application and network service API to serve both cloud providers and their customers.

Check out more about Big Switch Networks on SDNCentral: (our favorite is an Interview with Jason Matlof and Dave Butler of Big Switch Networks)


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