Pica8 Demos OpenFlow Networking Interop with Vello Systems

By Paula Bernier September 05, 2013

Software-defined networking outfit Pica8 Inc. has joined forces with Vello Systems to enable OpenFlow-based interoperability. That interoperability is between Pica8’s open switching operating system running on a 48x10 GbE open switch with 40 GbE capability and the VellOS 7.0 operating system.

SDN is an architecture that separates the control and data planes of the network and automatically looks at flows in the network, understanding the requirements of those different flows and using the network to provide those flows with the appropriate bandwidth and other network resources. This applications-first networking mindset is a significant change from how networks are designed and work today. It takes the traditional siloed approach to networking and effectively lays it on its side.

OpenFlow is the first SDN standard to be defined.          

Image via Shutterstock

“We are pleased to announce this joint demonstration of interoperability as it represents a consistent advancement of deployment-ready OpenFlow switches running robust applications,” said James Liao, Pica8 CEO and co-founder. “Leveraging OpenFlow will facilitate administrative central control while maintaining distributed intelligence to enable local switches to have the decision-making ability needed to suit the particular application and deliver very high service levels.”

Three-year-old Pica8, which raised $6.6 million in funding from Vantage Point Capital, offers what it bills as the world's first open, hardware-independent switching system. The company’s switches already are in production networks, including with Baidu and Yahoo Japan, according to Steve Garrison, Pica8 vice president of product marketing, who spoke at last week’s SDN Precon at ITEXPO West.

At the moment, these industry giants are using the Pica8 solution as a top-of-rack replacement for legacy switches, but these companies brought in the SDN solution provider to help them migrate to a programmable fabric. An SDN-based programmable fabric, he explained, will make it easy to move workloads between racks, rows or data centers, which today is a challenge.

Garrison added that, although Pica8 today sells switches, it’s doing that just to get the marketing moving, and that its long-term plans are to sell only software. He added that Pica8 is more of a competitive threat to legacy switch vendors than anyone in the SDN space because it enables users to customize its OS, which has never before been done in switching. And, he added, users can program the Pica8 solution with external devices as long as they support OpenFlow.

Pica8 likes to talk about what it sees as the three stages of SDN. Stage one involves the use of OpenFlow. Stage two, which is where we are today, has Pica8 customers building solutions based on its reference design, which it made available in December and was expected to provide more detail on in the March/April time frame (after this issue went to press). Stage three is what Garrison referred to as the “ah ha” stage, where companies figure out what kind of new capabilities and services SDN can make possible.

To rewind to present day and stage two, the reference architecture is a development solution that combines the popular Open vSwitch 1.7.1 virtual switch with OpenFlow 1.2 implemented in Pica8’s PicOS operating system. Garrison said this spring Pica8 would have a better understanding of how its 20 cloud provider partners have been playing with the reference architecture in their labs so it can decide where to take the solution next.

It also should be noted that Pica8 is using an open source controller called Ryu, which came out of NTT.

"The Ryu open source controller helps data centers enjoy the benefits of SDN by providing a platform for the deployment of a wide range of network applications including cloud services," said Fujita Tomonori, RYU chief maintainer at NTT Software Innovation Center. "We are proud to see Ryu being leveraged for cloud services and excited to see Pica8's ongoing work to commercialize NTT Laboratories' efforts and bring value to their customers and partners.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

Executive Editor, TMC

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