Pica8 Out of Stealth, Bringing SDN to Commodity hardware with Open Full Stack System

Software-defined Networking (SDN), a.k.a. virtual networks, has become the frontier of data center virtualization in the cloud and internal enterprise data centers since the bidding war over Nicira and its subsequent purchase by VMware. But, says Wikibon Principal Research Contributor Stu Miniman, SDN is still an immature technology, and the physical network switches themselves have not yet all caught up to the requirements of virtualization. This is similar to the initial period of server virtualization, when only a limited subset of servers could support hypervisors.

Pica8, a Software-Defined Network (SDN) startup, has come out of stealth mode with announcement of its open SDN reference architecture. Pica8 has a specific mission, writes Miniman in his latest Professional Alert, to bring SDN to commodity switches, starting with hardware from Quanta. This Taiwan-based manufacturer has been building a broad product portfolio including servers, storage, and network switches. Pica8’s CEO James Liao came from Quanta.

Pica8’s reference architecture includes a physical commodity switch running its hardware-independent PicOS operating system, built on the OpenFlow 1.2 standard, integrated with the Open vSwitch (OVS) virtual switch and tested with an Ryu OpenFlow Controller created by NTT. Pica8 is expected to add additional controller integrations soon.

This reference architecture “is the first to bring ODM networking to a broader market,” writes Miniman. It is complementary with both Big Switch Networks and Nicera. However, it represents a direct threat to the brand-name switch manufacturers such as Cisco, because it introduces much less expensive commodity switching to the SDN hardware layer and will begin the process of commoditizing network hardware and driving prices, and profits, down to razor-thin levels.

As with all Wikibon research, Stu’s complete analysis is available publicly without charge on the Wikibon site. IT professionals are invited to register for free membership in Wikibon, which allows them to post comments and questions on research and publish their own Alerts and white papers for the Wikibon community. It also gets them invitations to Wikibon Peer Incite meetings, at which their peers discuss their experiences with leading edge products designed to solve pressing IT problems.