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Dell Taps Big Switch To Expand Bare Metal Options

Dell will resell Big Switch's Big Tap application and Switch Light OS on a selection of Dell top-of-rack switches.

Dell and Big Switch Networks announced a reseller agreement in which Dell will sell the Big Tap Monitoring application from Big Switch, which includes an OpenFlow controller. Dell will also offer Big Switch’s Switch Light OS on two Dell switch lines.

This is the second partnership Dell has entered to sell a third-party switch OS on its own hardware. In late January, Dell announced a similar deal with Cumulus Networks, which makes a Linux-based switch operating system.

Unlike the Cumulus deal, however, Dell doesn’t sell the Switch Light OS by itself. Instead, it’s part of the purchase of the Big Tap network monitoring application. Big Tap creates a fabric of bare metal switches that can mirror network traffic and send that traffic to third-party monitoring and management systems, such as performance monitoring or security tools.

“Big Switch is more of an end-to-end solution and Cumulus is for a Linux-based environment looking for programmability,” said Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking.

Big Tap includes a controller that interacts with the Switch Light OS. “The Dell switch, when it’s plugged in with Switch Light, looks for its configuration from the controller, so at that point the network admin programs the Big Tap controller to configure everything on the switches,” said Doug Murray, CEO of Big Switch. The Big Switch controller uses OpenFlow 1.3 to communicate with the switches.

The Switch Light OS will run on two Dell ToR switches: the S4810, which has forty-eight 10GbE ports and four 40GbE uplinks; and the S6000, which has thirty-two 40GbE ports (or ninety-six 10GbE ports). Customers can buy the OS pre-installed from Dell, or purchase the software from Big Switch for its own installation.

In either case, Dell will handle “all the Level 1 service and support, and do our best to debug and answer customer problems,” said Burns. If the customer has issues Dell can’t resolve, it will turn to Big Switch, but the problem will still be handled through the Dell services group.

Burns says the new agreement will help expand Dell’s appeal with organizations that are “looking for alternatives to proprietary switching,” including service providers, hyperscale Web companies, and very large enterprises such as financial institutions.

“This gives us the opportunity to have conversations with a new set of customers that with our traditional model we wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” he said.

As for Big Switch, Murray noted “It’s an incredible opportunity to expand our reach. We’ll invest heavily in terms of partnership to make it a success.”

Burns declined to provide pricing. He expects the cost of Big Tap and Switch Light to “provide a bit of a CapEx improvement to customers,” but it will still carry a price premium over traditional white box vendors.

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio

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