& cplSiteName &

Plexxi's SDN Really Flattens the Data Center

Craig Matsumoto
12/5/2012
50%
50%

Software-defined networking (SDN) startup Plexxi divulged details of its architecture Wednesday, describing how its optical-ring layout can make a data center better suited for cloud services.

Light Reading outlined Plexxi's details back in September. The startup goes beyond pure software; it's offering top-of-rack 10Gbit/s Ethernet switches and a controller architecture to make them all SDN-like.

How's it all work? Let us remind you of what we discovered in September:



More specifically, Plexxi's switches are connected in a fiber-optic ring. When two items in the data center need to be linked (what Plexxi calls an "affinity"), the network ring configures accordingly. Plexxi refers to this as moving the network to suit the workload, rather than the other way around.

"We wanted to go out and create an actual network that was fully definable by software," says Mat Mathews, Plexxi's vice president of product management.

The difference might sound semantic, but it means there's no external application, sitting atop all the software, that tells the network what to do.

It also means the network has no tiers and none of the leaf/spine architecture that data center people talk about. With vendors boasting about how flat they can make the network, Plexxi seems to have found a way to be the flattest of all.

"Other networks just use protocols to make the network look flat," Mathews says.

It's all run by a controller that's centralized but also includes a federated piece distributed to each switch. The setup is similar to the way OpenFlow gets deployed, but the inner workings are very different (and no, OpenFlow itself isn't supported yet). Plexxi uses algorithms and a global view of the network to decide how to configure the network.

In other words, rather than programming route tables, the controller looks at the needs of the workloads and calculates how the network ought to be getting used. Some of this can even happen automatically.

This is where it's going to get tricky for Plexxi: To get partners involved, the company has to bend them toward this way of thinking. Partners might be used to using APIs for issuing commands to pieces of software. Plexxi calls for "affinity APIs," where a tool tells the network what it cares about -- high bandwidth or ample storage, for instance -- leaving the network to hash out the specifics.

The ring setup does create extra latency, because Plexxi can't avoid the speed of light. Its setup isn't targeting high-frequency traders that need to shave nanoseconds off of a transmission.

The entire Plexxi collection is shipping, and the company has a couple of customers in production, Mathews says. One is trying to offer a premier cloud service where workloads are guaranteed to be a maximum number of hops apart on the network. Another is offering an elastic storage service based on big disk arrays; Plexxi's gear treats each customer's chunk of storage as a workload to be mated to the rest of the customer's virtual network.

For more



— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading is spending much of this year digging into the details of how automation technology will impact the comms market, but let's take a moment to also look at how automation is set to overturn the current world order by the middle of the century.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
SmartNICs aren't just about achieving scale. They also have a major impact in reducing CAPEX and OPEX requirements.
Hot Topics
Nokia Bell Labs & Verizon Stretch Fixed 5G to the Home
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/13/2017
Juniper's New Contrail VP Hails From Google
Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading, 11/15/2017
Eurobites: Telefónica Reckons Plastic Is Fantastic for FTTH
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 11/15/2017
Animals with Phones
Why Cats Don't Run Tech Support Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives