Zodiac FX is the world’s smallest OpenFlow SDN switch


Zodiac FX is the first OpenFlow switch designed to sit on your desk, not in a data center.


Up until now the power of Software Defined Networking (SDN) was only available to the administrators of large corporate networks like Google and Facebook. However, one Australian company has shrunken those capabilities down to a palm-sized form factor of just 10cm x 8cm to create what they’re calling the world’s smallest OpenFlow-capable switch.

board

With aspirations of getting SDN into the hands of Makers, students and hobbyists, the Zodiac FX is the first OpenFlow switch meant to sit on your desk, not in a data center. The idea was initially conceived by Northbound Networks founder Paul Zanna after finding that there was a persistent gap between SDN controllers and simulation software and OpenFlow-capable hardware.

What’s nice is that the Zodiac FX packs many of the features of an OpenFlow switch all for a fraction of the cost and size. Based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4E Cortex-M4 MCU, the board includes four 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports with integrated magnetics and indicator LEDs along with a command line interface accessible via USB virtual serial port. Aside from all that, the Zodiac FX is equipped with the layer 2 and 3 switching capabilities of the Micrel KSZ8795 Ethernet controller.

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Designed with the SDN development and Maker communities in mind, the Zodiac FX firmware is completely open source. This means that anyone can download the code and use Atmel Studio to produce their own custom version. From there, it can be reloaded onto the board via USB.

“The Zodiac FX firmware utilizes the Atmel Software Framework (ASF) for generic device drivers such as USB, SPI, etc. On top of this it then adds a custom written driver for the KSZ8795. FreeRTOS is used to provide task and memory management for the three core processes; Command (CLI), Switching and OpenFlow,” the team writes.

It should be noted that, although the Zodiac FX may be the company’s first foray into the hardware world, Northbound Networks has been extensively involved with SDN development utilities. Are you looking to develop an SDN application? Head over to Zodiac FX’s Kickstarter page, where the crew is seeking $30,693. While delivery for the beta version is expected to kick off in October 2015, the final units aren’t slated to ship until January 2016.

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