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NEC slashes OpenFlow prices with a $3,000 SDN starter pack

NEC is hoping to push OpenFlow technology to a wider audience with a low-cost SDN starter pack.

NEC has slashed the cost of getting started with its ProgrammableFlow SDN technology from $75,000 to $3,000. The company also partnered with Dell to validate interoperability between NEC's controller and Dell's OpenFlow-capable switches.

The $3,000 ProgrammableFlow Starter Pack, a cornerstone of ProgrammableFlow v6 launched this week, would cover one OpenFlow controller that oversees up to five switches. Customers will be able to pay more as they expand their SDN environments. The $75,000 entry point was for a much larger environment, and NEC charges up to $150,000 for a cluster of controllers.

"We have come to realize that there is a huge untapped demand for small-start deployments of SDN," said Don Clark, general manager of new business at NEC. "These can be departmental level or even laboratory-type deployments. We want to allow these customers to understand the benefits and operational characteristics of SDN."

NEC joins a few other companies and organizations angling to get their technology into the hands of customers for testing or smaller-scale implementation. Last week Pica8 announced it would launch a free version of its PicOS bare-metal operating system for customers starting out with SDN.

NEC's price shift "indicates that over the last couple of years there has been a lot of hype around moving quickly to SDN, but the reality on the ground is that end users are taking their time to understand the implications of moving to an SDN topology and architecture," said Rohit Mehra, vice president of infrastructure at IDC.

As network managers take their time in understanding SDN's effects on infrastructure and operations, NEC understands it must broaden its audience and sales opportunities -- and make it less financially risky to get involved.

"NEC will aim at smaller and midsize enterprises and research institutions that are tighter on budget," said Mehra. "This kind of penetration pricing will help them get a larger base across different types of customers, not just cloud providers."

NEC announces interoperability with Dell OpenFlow switches

This week NEC also announced a strategic partnership with Dell that will pair NEC's ProgrammableFlow controllers with Dell's OpenFlow-capable switches.

Clark says NEC and Dell have worked to "validate interoperability" between Dell's switches and ProgrammableFlow controllers.

"Dell has an outstanding OpenFlow implementation and good set of products that we want to be partnered with," he said.

According to Mehra, Dell's strategic partnership is another sign that NEC is working to broaden its audience, especially outside of Asia where the technology is already taking hold.

"A partnership with Dell gives NEC credibility and acceptance … It will bring awareness and brand recognition as it is presented to Dell customers," said Mehra.

Meanwhile, "Dell has realized that there is no one type of solution in the SDN market that is going to take it all," he added.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Rivka Gewirtz Little, or follow her on Twitter.

Next Steps

NEC introduces an OpenFlow 1.3 controller

How Meru and NEC will bring SDN to wireless

NEC's ProgrammableFlow network innovation

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