Pica8’s Breakthrough Networking Technologies
Pica8’s breakthrough networking technologies have revolutionized both ease of use and business return for today’s largest enterprise data networks. While the value of open white- and brite-box networking in data center leaf-spine architectures is now well established, delivering that value in a solution consumable in the rest of the enterprise — campus and access networks – required us to develop the world’s first end-to-end reference architecture for open campus networks – Threshold™.
To implement the Threshold whole-network replacement vision, Pica8 has now offers a number of new capabilities that cannot be found anywhere else, including the only open networking alternative to legacy switch stacks, IDFs and chassis switches; AmpCon™, the world’s only open networking automation framework for campus and access networks; and CrossFlow™, the industry’s first intent-based-networking (IBN) solution for open networks.
The days of open networking’s NOS-on-a-Box past are now gone, replaced by cost-effective, modern, fully automated campus and access networks crafted exclusively from white- and brite-box open switches — from companies like Dell EMC – that are operated and managed by Pica8’s Linux-based open software.
Threshold builds on Pica8’s proven PICOS® NOS, the only open NOS with a fully competitive enterprise feature set, and then layers on AmpCon and CrossFlow to create a complete, centrally managed network of white box or brite box switches. Ideal for Fortune 1000; state and local government; and education networks, Pica8 network solutions feature automated deployment, configuration, monitoring, alerting and system logs to simplify network operations and lifecycle management.
In fact, a major part of Pica8’s mission is to massively simplify campus and access networks.
For example, while AmpCon is a full-on competitor to legacy automation solutions like Cisco’s DNA Center, it is far simpler to use – an intern with zero programming expertise can successfully turn on and configure 1,000 or more switches – and comes at a special introductory price that is less than the sales tax of legacy offerings. And Pica8 radically simplifies both the operation and maintenance of the switch stacks and chassis switches it is replacing. Like them, it is managed as a single IP address. Unlike them, it not only eliminates any requirement for Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) – it offers more reliable, active-active redundancy – but failed switches can be replaced by anyone who happens to be in the office.
We’re basically showing legacy enterprise switch stacks and chassis switches the door.
What’s more, Pica8 gives you something no other networking vendor of any kind can, open intent-based networking via the ability to run both L2/L3 and “classic” SDN OpenFlow control planes on every switch port in a network at the same time via CrossFlow. With CrossFlow, for example, enterprises can – for the first time – apply granular policy and security updates to any/all ports in their networks, or redirect suspicious flows to analytics or security appliances – all in real time without any interruptions to the networks. (And, yes, all of this is completely compatible with legacy networking infrastructure.)
In short, with Pica8, enterprise customers can crush their ease of use problems, build in virtually unlimited expansion capability, and improve the reliability, performance and security capabilities of their networks all at the same time. And, in doing so, they’ve also stepped away from any form of vendor-lock and have fully future–proofed their network investment. The fact that these solutions also come with the full economic benefits of the disaggregated white box model is simply a bonus.
Simplified Open Networks Designed to Run the Entire Enterprise
Thanks to Pica8, disaggregated open networking has finally escaped from its birthplace in the data center and is now a viable solution for every corner of the enterprise, from campus to remote offices and the access edge. Pica8’s PICOS® Network Operating System (NOS) enables a revolutionary – and massively simplified — leaf-spine architecture to be deployed all across the enterprise.
The PICOS application, the world’s first fully automated white box/brite box switch orchestration software, enables dozens of access- and aggregation-layer switches to look like a completely flat network with a single IP address. It simplifies network operations and allows for seamless, cost-effective upgrades for aging enterprise switch stacks and chassis switches. And of course, PICOS sports a full enterprise feature set backed by global, round-the-clock support.
For IT professionals seeking generational technical advances over their legacy vendors’ products, as well as the ownership cost advantages baked into the disaggregated open white box economic model, the search is over.
SLED – (State/Local Government & Education)
Aging Networks, Increased Demand, Limited Budget and Staff
State and local government agencies and educational institutions alike face a dilemma. Employees, constituents and students increasingly expect services to be delivered online, but aging networks simply aren’t equipped to handle increasing workloads. IT departments know it’s time for an upgrade, but the price points legacy vendors are quoting aren’t in sync with the lean budgets typical of this market. Most K-12 school districts and higher educational institutions, for example, have dozens if not hundreds of switches that need upgrading, many of them in remote locations – schools, dorms, athletic facilities, administrative offices and the like.
What Can Be Done? Automate.
Only cost-effective network automation makes it possible for SLED networks to be upgraded and maintained by small teams of engineers and network administrators. But network automation packages from the likes of Cisco, Juniper, and Aruba are prohibitively expensive.
On a cost basis, open networking has long been a preferred path for education and government network administrators to travel. They are well aware that, for a fraction of the cost, open network hardware offers the same performance and capabilities as “brand name” switches – because they use the same underlying hardware. Open networks also represent a natural fit for fiscally responsible educational institutions and government agencies that must answer to taxpayers and donors for every dollar they spend.
Unfortunately, until now, open networks lacked any kind of easy-to-use automation framework for campus and access networks that administrators could use to configure, deploy, and maintain these new, open switches with limited numbers of technical staff. In short, this meant that the only upgrade path available to them was to bite the bullet and go back to the expensive automation tools offered by their legacy vendors. With the introduction of Pica8’s new AmpCon™ automation framework, all that has changed. Part of Pica8’s new Threshold™ reference architecture for open campus and access networks, AmpCon helps create a fully automated and centrally managed end-to-end campus network of white box, or brite box, switches from vendors like Dell EMC.
Secure, Always-on Access Networks Keep Your Business in Business
Today’s IT applications are the lifeblood of business around the globe. When they’re hacked or unavailable for any reason, revenue stops cold. IT apps literally serve and support every aspect of operations; from marketing products and services, to sales, production, delivery, inventory, collections, payments, accounting and communications with customers.
When a major U.S. mobile carrier elected to refresh its legacy access network infrastructure for thousands of the company’s retail stores in 2017, it decided to look not only at its existing switching/routing vendors but also at open network switch solutions. The company wanted to see just how far disaggregated open networking solutions had progressed and what advantages they might bring to the carrier’s retail business. In the end, it wasn’t much of a contest.
Pica8 was the beneficiary of the carrier’s comprehensive decision-making process with most of the selection criteria strongly tipping in favor of the modern disaggregated hardware/software model. With features like CrossFlow™, the company could implement Open Intent-based Networking, adding software defined network features alongside traditional L2/L3 switch/routing – on the same switch ports. That greatly enhanced security at retail locations, for example, by enabling the company to issue security updates without affecting normal network traffic. (Learn more in this white paper, “An Enterprise Approach to White Box Networking.”)
Monitoring and Analytics
Granular PICOS® Policy Control Mitigates Attacks
Enterprises and service providers alike both need the ability to collect, monitor and analyze the data flowing through their networks and into their server farms.
The leading use case for monitoring and analytics is the speedy detection and remediation of traffic that threatens applications and/or end devices. Other popular real-time monitoring use cases include network performance monitoring, quality of user experience measurement, error detection, network flooding by malfunctioning streaming devices, performance optimization and data consumption billing.
CrossFlow™, a feature built into the PICOS® NOS, enables any (or every) network switch to also function as a software-activated network probe. Packets of interest can be directly mirrored from the switches to a plethora of monitoring tools, typically servers instrumented with threat-specific software. Other security use-case examples include intrusion detection and e-mail- and media-borne virus detection. All without interrupting normal network traffic.
PICOS and CrossFlow eliminate the need for expensive external probe hardware and enable switches to be updated in real time while remaining in operation. It’s Open, Intent-based Networking – a concept Pica8 invented back in 2014 – and it’s available now for the enterprise.