Big Switch Labs – A Playground for Big Minds

When I was chosen as a delegate for the recent Tech Field Day event (NFD10) and learned that Big Switch Networks would be presenting, I had no idea who they were or what to expect. I spent some time reading up and watching a few videos to get a better understanding of the technology, but still felt like I had gaps in comprehension. Big Switch then sent an email informing me of their lab environment called BSNLabs. I dove in and swam around for a few hours, consuming enlightenment with each doggie paddle. If you have 3 minutes to spare, I’ll do my best to quickly explain why Big Switch is cool, and how you can test drive it yourself.


Big Switch explained in 60 seconds

There are two components to Big Switch Networks – Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) and Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF). Big Cloud Fabric is the meat of the solution. So what is it? It’s an SDN technology for the data center built using Open Ethernet switches (aka whitebox/bare metal). From a highly available, single interface you can control a massive leaf-spine clos fabric comprised of both physical and virtual workloads, effectively turning your data center into one big switch. SomeĀ key points:

  • The Big Cloud Fabric system provides Zero Touch Networking for switches using ONIE. Easy does it.
  • Fabric switches, both physical and virtual, run Switch Light OS. Clean and consistent.
  • The Big Cloud Fabric supports virtual and physical service insertion, or NFV. Hello!
  • CLI, GUI, REST API: You choose – Big Switch does it all.
  • Need orchestration? No problem! Check out their support for OpenStack and VMware.

The Big Monitoring Fabric gives you deep visibility across your fabric, both virtual and physical. SPAN all the things!

BSN Labs brings it all together

I have to give it to Big Switch, they did an excellent job providing the curious with hands-on labs showcasing their technology. Nothing to hide here, these are actual lab environments complete with walk-throughs, scenarios and free rein to play around as you please. I’m constantly playing catch up in the industry, making sure I’m at least aware of what’s going on. If you’re reading this, you probably are too. SDN is the acronym of the echoed across the industry, but many of us don’t use it in our day-to-day and we’re still trying to wrap our minds around it. BSN Labs is actually quite helpful in conveying many of the general SDN concepts. It goes one step further by giving you a glimpse into orchestration through OpenStack – something I personally had no hands-on experience with.


These modules are currently available in the BSN labs:

Big Cloud Fabric
Module 1 – Introduction to Big Cloud Fabric 3.0 (Physical Edition)
Module 2 – Big Cloud Fabric 3.2 (P+V Edition)
Module 3 – OpenStack Integration with Big Cloud Fabric 3.0
Module 4 – BCF Programmability and Automation
Module 5 – Introduction to BCF Fabric Analytics
Module 6 – VMware vCenter Integration with Big Cloud Fabric

Big Monitoring Fabric
Module 1 – Introduction to Monitoring Fabric

Closing Statements

If you’re planning to add new pods or build a new data center, make sure to keep Big Switch in your mind. I still have many questions, but will certainly keep an eye on Big Switch as they continue to simplify data center operations.


David Varnum


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