Imagine the possibility of having complete control over your home network. Like giving priority to bandwidth sensitive applications such as streaming media or online gaming. What about monitoring network usage or providing guest access to friends and family or even using it to protect your network from intruders? Until now the power of Software Defined Networking (SDN) was only available to the administrators of large corporate networks like Google and Facebook. Even though there are numerous free or open source SDN controllers on the internet the one thing that was missing was a small, affordable OpenFlow switch.
Well that was until now....
Introducing the Zodiac FX
The Zodiac FX provides many of the features of an OpenFlow switch costing thousands of dollars, yet is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Some of those amazing features include:
- 4 x 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports with integrated magnetics
- Command line interface accessible via USB virtual serial port
- Amtel ATSAM4E Cortex M4 processor
- Support for OpenFlow 1.0, 1.3 & 1.4
- 512 entry software flow table
- 64KB frame buffer with non-blocking store and forward
- 802.1q VLAN support for 64 groups from 4096 IDs
- Per port based 802.1x authentication
- 802.1w Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP)
- 16 ACLs per port
- 2KB jumbo frame support
- QoS / CoS prioritisation with 802.1q tag insertion
- Auto MDIX with X-over detection
- Per port link and activity LEDs
- High speed SPI expansion header
- USB powered
- Ultra small size of only 10 cm x 8 cm
What is OpenFlow?
OpenFlow is the protocol that makes Software Defined Networking possible. OpenFlow was originally developed by researchers at Stanford University and is now supported by all major networking vendors. At the centre of an OpenFlow network in an SDN controller, this is where your applications are installed. OpenFlow is used to communicate to the switches on your network which then process the data going through their ports using what are called "flows". These flows are generated by your application based on the task you have programmed it to perform.
Open Source firmware
Because we are part of the SDN development community, just like you we believe it's important to share the things we create. That is why the Zodiac FX firmware is completely open source. This means that anyone can download the source from our website and use the free Atmel Studio to produce their own custom version. Even though we will continue to develop the firmware ourselves, it doesn't stop someone from forking a different version and building an entirely new community around it.
The Zodiac FX firmware utilises 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.
To ensure we produce a final product that exceeds everybody's expectations we will be running a BETA program that will allow the Zodiac FX to be tested in real world environments, with real world traffic. The beta program only has a limited number of places so if you have experience in OpenFlow, software development or network design we would really love for you to become part of our beta test team.
The whole point of the Zodiac FX was to make it as accessible as possible so we have created a range of rewards so everyone can have the ability to develop great SDN applications.
We have now added three new rewards, the limited edition "Go with the Flow!" T-Shirt, a T-Shirt / Zodiac FX Pack and the special edition Kickstarter only signed and numbered GREEN Zodiac FX.
Limited Edition T-shirt
This limited edition, 100% cotton T-shirt features the phrase "Go with the Flow!" on the front and the Northbound Networks logo on the back.
We have planned a realistic delivery schedule that allows us to ship all your rewards in an achievable time frame. The current Beta 2 version has been fully functional for a number of months and it's been the basis for firmware development up until now. There are however a few optimisations that will be made to improve the manufacturing workflow before it goes out to our beta testers. Once we are happy that there are no issues with the hardware it will be taken for emissions testing which will include certification for RCM, FCC, CE and IC. We will also consider VCCI and CCC if required. Once certification is complete we will begin manufacturing and delivery.
The Zodiac FX is built upon the highest quality 4-layer PCB with Gold immersed pads to ensure reliability.
At it's heart is a powerful Atmel ATSAM4E8C ARM Cortex M4 processor. Together with Atmel's integrated development environment (IDE), Atmel Studio, you can easily build or modify the firmware and reload it onto the Zodiac FX via USB.
In addition to OpenFlow the Zodiac FX features the layer 2/3 switching capabilities of the amazing Micrel KSZ8795 Ethernet controller. The KSZ8795 provides many of the features of an datacenter grade switch at a fraction of the size and cost.
To provide the best performance and ensure minimal emissions the Zodiac FX includes 10/100 RJ-45 ports with indicator LEDs and integrated magnetics.
It is important to us that we manufacture the Zodiac FX in Australia and help support the local community. So all of the devices are being built in-house using state of the art Neoden pick 'n' place machines and reflow ovens. These machines can build a Zodiac FX in about 30 seconds!
This way we can ensure that we provide a high quality product using only original components. It also reduces the risk of large scale manufacturing errors and shipping issues. Every board will be individually tested, flashed with the lasted firmware and lovingly packed before being shipped to our amazing community of backers.
Who is Northbound Networks?
Northbound Networks is an Australian networking company founded in 2014 with the goal of creating affordable tools for SDN developers. Northbound Networks currently produces a number of SDN development utilities and is also one of the most downloaded developers on HP's SDN application store.
About the creator
Paul Zanna is the founder of Northbound Networks and the creator of the Zodiac FX. Paul has been designing enterprise networks for almost 25 years. He has spent the last 2 years working with networking companies and universities from all around the world developing new ways to utilise the power of SDN. He has also published a number of research papers on SDN and is a member of the ANZ SDN Alliance. Further information on Paul's background is available on Linkedin
Risks and challenges
As with any new hardware device there are a number of manufacturing and component supply risks. These include shortages and/or delays sourcing components, manufacturing delays or faults and possible issues with shipping. In addition, there are also inherent risks with developing a new product such as unforeseen difficulties with software development and possible design changes required due to standards compliance. To reduce these risks we are including a beta test program to ensure proper real world testing of the hardware. As the firmware is user updatable any software issues that arise after shipping can be easily corrected with updates.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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