Light Reading
The 'vision' behind Insieme is all about rethinking how the data center operates. As for the products ... Hey, look at this other stuff!

Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
6/26/2013
50%
50%

Cisco Systems Inc. revealed the vision, but not the products, behind its Insieme Networks Inc. spin-in on Wednesday morning.

It's an application-minded data-center fabric, one that's built for new cloud-networking trends and the imminent rise of software-defined networking (SDN). And of course it's got an Insieme-developed ASIC at its heart.

Separately, Cisco announced a less radical data-center fabric, based on a technology called Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA), that's meant to be more of an upgrade to today's fabrics. It's a more conservative approach but one that Cisco says aggressively flattens and simplifies the data center. Some customers will favor that approach, so DFA shouldn't be thought of as a place-holder for Insieme, Cisco officials said.

(Side note: In baseball, "DFA" means "designated for assignment" -- a status assigned to a player that a team intends to get rid of within 10 days.)

The Insieme fabric will be available later this year. What's it made of? We don't know yet; Cisco only talked "vision" in Wednesday's press conference and didn't specify any Insieme products. However, the Nexus 7700, a big honkin' 100Gbit/s switch that also got announced Wednesday, will be usable inside the Insieme architecture, Cisco officals said.

The Insieme vision
Cisco revealed Insieme, or the idea of it, during its Cisco Live! customer event, being held in Orlando, Fla., this year. The press got an early preview at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time that featured Soni Jiandani, senior vice president of Insieme.

Insieme presents what Cisco calls an Application-Centric Infrastructure, one where the data center responds automatically to the needs of applications, doing things like moving virtual machines out of congested areas and migrating the necessary security and policy enforcement with them.

That's actually a goal of most SDN architectures. Cisco emphasized its use of an Insieme-developed ASIC, however, constrasting it with architectures relying on merchant chips from the likes of Broadcom Corp. -- a dig at Arista Networks Inc. and also at most other SDN architectures.

Jiandani described merchant-chip boxes as being hampered by the pace of the chips, which she said take three years between major generational shifts. The next generation of any ASIC also takes years, but Cisco's implication is that it's always ahead of the merchant-chip curve.

The hardware is important because network virtualization that's done in software will add complexity rather than reduce it, Jiandani claimed.

Insieme's ASIC purportedly will allow any type of encapsulation for moving virtual machines, for instance. There are multiple, competing protocols for doing this -- VXLAN from VMware Inc. and NVGRE from Microsoft Corp., for instance -- and Insieme's chip will be able to apply combinations of them at will.

Some implementations require external gateways to do something like that. Jiandani disparagingly referred to this as the "Christmas-tree baggage" required by merchant chips.

Insieme is also going to use some merchant chips, but only for basic functions, "rear-view mirror" types of tasks, as Jiandani put it. Jiandani also stressed that Insieme takes a view of the network as a whole -- what Cisco is calling a "system" view -- rather than working box-by-box. "There is nothing that is bringing a whole system together in these [other] models," she said.

Designated data-center fabric
Insieme specifics weren't disclosed. Cisco did go into more detail about the DFA, its more conventional fabric.

It's a revamp of the concepts in today's data-center fabrics, including the Juniper Networks Inc. QFabric. David Yen, the executive who once touted QFabric's superiority, is now a senior vice president at Cisco and was the one who introduced DFA in Wednesday's press conference.

The popular way to build a data center is in a leaf/spine architecture -- the leaves being Layer 2 switches at the top of each equipment rack, connected through a Layer 3 spine that's essentially the data-center core. Cisco is bringing the Layer 3 part down to the leaf nodes, creating a distributed gateway across the physical network edge.

DFA also connects every leaf node to every spine switch, so that no two virtual machines are more than two network hops apart. That adds predictability to so-called east/west traffic -- the communication between virtual machines that's causing the need for so many data-center changes in the first place.

DFA is due to be available in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Cisco did announce one specific product: the Nexus 7700 data-center switch, due to ship in July (i.e., in a couple of weeks).

It improves on the Nexus 7000 in raw numbers. The 7700 will have line cards that carry ten 100Gbit/s ports apiece, well more than the four ports that most other switches and routers are just starting to achieve. The 7000 is getting an upgrade, too, with six-port 100Gbit/s cards coming soom.

Arista has bragged about getting to 12 100Gbit/s ports per card, using on-board optics. Cisco didn't specify how it's getting to 10 ports. (See Arista's On-Board Optics Boost 100G Density.)

All told, the 18-slot version of the 7700, called the Nexus 7718, will be able to support 192 100Gbit/s ports or 384 40Gbit/s ports.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/3/2013 | 6:14:48 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
Yes, TiMetra is quite different. Good team, though, by all accounts - Insieme did well to recruit you guys. That's interesting to know - thanks, Todd.
Todd Craw
50%
50%
Todd Craw,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/3/2013 | 4:36:45 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
The chief scientist and co-founder of Insieme is former TiMetra and there are several others of us there as well. Although, I don't think that really has anything to do with it. TiMetra was quite different and still is.
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/27/2013 | 5:32:51 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
Didn't catch the "affinities" reference in Cisco's talks -- that's pretty funny. (For those who don't know: "affinity" is the SDN word that Plexxi's been using.)

The whole application-aware thing certainly didn't originate with Cisco. You can probably trace it all the way back to TiMetra in, what, 2003? Part of their mission was to have services originate in the router/switch.

Thanks, Mike.
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/27/2013 | 5:30:11 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
Yes, that will be interesting. Insieme swears it'll be using ASICs, but I'll be curious to what extent they rely on Broadcom (or whoever's) chips.

It sounds like most of the mundane Layer 2 work will be done on merchant chips.... which, really, isn't a bad idea. I understand the differentiation problem noted by nuker, below, but at this point, there's a certain amount of hubris involved in refusing to use those chips.
nuker
50%
50%
nuker,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/27/2013 | 1:29:24 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
Makes one wonder. What is the difference between them, Arista, Cumulus ....
StartUpGuy1
50%
50%
StartUpGuy1,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/27/2013 | 12:51:11 AM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
Will be interesting to see with the Insieme box to see if it has the Cisco ASIC in it. The scuttlebutt is that they are using the Broadcomm Trident 2 because their own asic is not working...
@mbushong
50%
50%
@mbushong,
User Rank: Moderator
6/26/2013 | 7:57:36 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
As a Cisco competitor, it is both thrilling and maddening to see them adopt an application-centric approach. Chambers tossing out references to application affinities was a bittersweet moment for I suspect all of us at Plexxi.

I do like their central thesis though - that applications (and by extension application experience) are the most important things. It starts to draw a clear line between Cisco and VMWare. VMW has said that bandwidth is the solution to everything, while Cisco is saying that intelligence is the answer.

As with everything, I think the answer is somewhere in between, but at least we are starting to see different strategies to tackle similar problems. I did write my own take on this topic today as well for reference: http://www.plexxi.com/2013/06/...

-Mike Bushong

Plexxi
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/26/2013 | 3:54:10 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
So, about Insieme itself... no really big surprises, especially not the proud ASIC proclamations. A lot of the SDN/Insieme vision sounds very much like what everybody else wants to see the data center do.

The ASIC does sound like it's got some usefulness -- especially that part about being able to mix protocols. (Although... if I go back through old notes, will I find that on the roadmaps of merchant chip vendors? I think I might, but I'm not sure offhand.)

I'm glad I didn't miss the press conference, but was it worth a 5:30 a.m. (Pacific) wake-up call? Hm...
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/26/2013 | 3:51:36 PM
re: Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN
I took a linguistic shortcut -- the new fabric is not *called* "DFA," that's just a technology that the fabric incorporates. The new fabric is called.... well, I guess it's just the latest version of the Cisco Unified Fabric.
Flash Poll
Wagner’s Ring
Data Centers Drive Telcos Into the Future

8|28|14   |   2:20   |   (2) comments


Data centers are at the heart of key trends driving telecom -- network virtualization, the drive for increased agility, and the need to compete with OTT providers.
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of Integrated Solutions on SoftCOM & NFV Monetization

8|26|14   |   4.43   |   (0) comments


Libin Dai, Director of Integrated Solutions, Carrier Business Group, discusses Huawei's SoftCOM and NFV monetization. Huawei believes that NFV monetization should be service-driven rather than network-driven, and that operators should have network transformation, service transformation and a compatible and collaborative ecosystem in place in order to deploy NFV.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of US NFV Lab on CloudEdge & the Future of NFV

8|26|14   |   4.06   |   (0) comments


Sean Chen, Director of US NFV Lab at Huawei, discusses Huawei's new approach to NFV in open collaboration. Huawei believes that through Proof of Concept tests, it could help operators learn and communicate with the industry more effectively. Sean believes that successful implementation of NFV should have its values reaching to end users and discusses how Huawei's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Highlights @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   3.34   |   (0) comments


At the Big Telecom Event in Chicago Huawei showcases its high-level strategy, the SoftCOM architecture, which helps operators reduce the cost of ownership of their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue in the ICT service environment. Huawei showcases over 30 pilot programs from across the globe, focusing on the industry-leading commercial ...
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX – Live from the Show

8|21|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


An overview of VeEX Test and Measurement solutions including TX300S multi-service test set with VeExpress cloud-based management system, UX400 universal modular platform supporting 100G testing, and the redesigned RXT modular platform.
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning CE 2.0 Networks Into the SDN & NFV Era With Telco Systems

8|19|14   |   5:19   |   (0) comments


Telco Systems' Ariel Efrati (CEO) and Moshe Shimon (VP of Product Management) discuss virtualization and how the company's new Open Metro Edge solution utilizes the SDN and NFV concepts to accelerate and orchestrate service delivery through its innovative product portfolio and software applications.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Myths: Is NFV Still Several Years Away?

8|11|14   |   1:13   |   (0) comments


Some say that NFV (network functions virtualization) is still several years away from being implemented on mobile operator networks. This isn't the case. Operators can get started on their paths to NFV now, as this short video from Skyfire shows.
LRTV Custom TV
A New Security Paradigm in SDN/NFV

7|28|14   |   02:54   |   (0) comments


Paul Shaneck, Global Director Network Solutions for Symantec, discusses the evolving virtualized network, explaining how Symantec is leading the security discussion as it relates to SDN and NFV, and helping to ensure the network is protected and compliant.
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint's Network Evolution

7|24|14   |   14:59   |   (0) comments


Sprint's Jay Bluhm gives a keynote speech at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) about Sprint's network and services evolution strategy, including Spark.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Keynote: The Software-Defined Operator

7|24|14   |   18:43   |   (1) comment


Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg explains the concept of the software-defined operator to the Big Telecom Event (BTE) crowd.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Hot Topics
Rogers, Shaw Take Aim at Netflix
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 8/26/2014
Utilities to Pump $11.2B Into Smart Grid – Study
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 8/26/2014
Verizon Launches QR Code Security Solution
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2014
Fiber Revival at Deutsche Telekom
Iain Morris, 8/25/2014
M2M's In Fashion: Wearables Play the US Open
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/25/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed