On Monday, a tiny startup called SnapRoute is expected to make a startling announcement.
It is swooping in and taking over technical leadership on a project called OpenSwitch that was formerly created and spearheaded by IT giant Hewlett-Packard Enterprise
HP is not leaving the project but will continue to be a member, a HP spokesperson tells us.
Yet people close to the project are calling this a major coup for SnapRoute.
“OpenSwitch has been decimated,” said one person familiar with the situation. “HP killed OpenSwitch. SnapRoute is taking it over.”
OpenSwitch is an effort to take on market leader Cisco by creating an open-source Linux-based network switch. It’s part of a broader trend of companies doing similar work, including startups like Cumulus Networks, Pluribus Networks, and SnapRoute.
The launch of OpenSwitch was greeted with tepid interest from the larger market. Still, HPE had hoped this project would be a big deal with itself in the driver’s seat. HPE had lined up a handful of big names as major contributors including silicon maker Broadcom (a company that makes the chips that many network devices use) and Barefoot Networks, Nick McKeown’s latest startup.
McKeown is the Stanford professor that helped launch this entire “software-defined network” revolution with a startup called Nicira he co-founded with Martin Casado. VMware bought Nicira for $1 billion back in 2012, setting off a war with Cisco in the process and launching a frenzy of other SDN startups and activity.
HPE’s OpenSwitch had gotten a nod of support from VMware, Arista and Intel, too. And it had landed the public endorsement of one potential user, LinkedIn, who planned to contribute to OpenSwitch. LinkedIn is currently building its own networking hardware and software, as part of a bigger project to design its own data center.
Earlier this year, the Linux Foundation accepted OpenSwitch as one of their projects, which also gave OpenSwitch some credibility with the huge community of Linux developers.
A SnapRoute coup
But then a tiny company called SnapRoute burst into the scene in late 2015, joining OpenSwitch, as well as other consortia, like Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP).
As we previously reported, SnapRoute was founded by the network team at Apple. Apple had tasked them with building a network that never, ever went down.
But the secretive Apple turned down their request to join Facebook’s OCP. OCP is a consortium of engineers all working together to solve similar tech problems and share technology. When Apple refused to let them join, the whole team quit the same week and, led by Jason Forrester, founded SnapRoute. (Later, Apple did join OCP after all.)
SnapRoute landed McKeown as an angel and raised another $4.5 million from Lightspeed. And it quickly landed a bunch of big internet companies as customers, we’re hearing, although SnapRoute won’t say who these customers are, and declined to comment on this story.
And that’s where the OpenSwitch saga comes in.
Some of those big SnapRoute customers were supposed to be on board to try out and anchor HPE’s OpenSwitch tech but they opted to use SnapRoute’s tech instead.
And so the people involved in the OpenSwitch project voted to ditch HPE’s software and replace it with SnapRoute’s instead, giving SnapRoute technical control of this project.
All of a sudden, it seems SnapRoute is everywhere.
Here’s a marketing video that HPE put out that discussed and promoted OpenSwitch last summer.