Light Reading
The company's software-defined networking architecture takes a whole new approach to provisioning and planning the data center

Plexxi's SDN Really Flattens the Data Center

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
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
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Documentaries
The Next-Gen Network Disconnect

10|29|14   |   01:23   |   (0) comments


There's a lot of talk about making networks more simple with SDN, NFV and next-gen broadband technology – but what about the complexity of introducing such capabilities?
LRTV Custom TV
Grow Your VPN Service Revenue

10|27|14   |   4:00   |   (0) comments


Watch how CSP product managers can better differentiate and maximize the value of their Internet, VPN and cloud services for business services customers, by adding premium application performance visibility to their data services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Add SmartSense to Make Your Network Ready for 4K

10|27|14   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


To make current networks ready for the coming 4K TV challenges, Huawei SmartSense solution will conveniently add experience and operation capabilities to boost telcos' future business.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
NetMatrix: Orchestrate the SDN & NFV World

10|27|14   |   4:11   |   (0) comments


Orchestrator is important in SDN/NFV world to make Telcom network automate, open and efficient. NetMatrix, as Huawei SDN/NFV orchestrator solution, has been in deployment and is showing its' value in real scenarios.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei FusionSphere Enabling ICT Transformation

10|27|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


Jeffrey Gao, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Huawei West Europe Region, talks about the company's future-oriented cloud strategy. Huawei is providing full portfolio of IT architecture and building an open cloud ecosystem with innovative cloud OS FusionSphere to support customers' ICT transformation.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: StorIT

10|27|14   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


An interview with Suren Vendantham of StorIT, a value-added distributor for Huawei in the Middle East region.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: Optimus

10|27|14   |   3:14   |   (0) comments


An interview with Nehul Goradia of Optimus, a value-added distributor for Huawei in the Middle East.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: Enterprise Solutions

10|27|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments


An interview with Pouya Parsafar of Enterprise Solutions, a valued distributor partner with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Customer Interview: OETC

10|27|14   |   2:35   |   (0) comments


An interview with Saif Albadi, of the Oman Electricity Transmissions Company, a government utility in that company that partners with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Customer Interview: Jannah Hotels & Resorts

10|27|14   |   3:13   |   (0) comments


An interview with Nehmeh Darwish, CEO of Jannah Hotel & Resorts, about his collaboration with Huawei across five hotels in the United Arab Emirates.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Commitment to the Middle East: GITEX 2014 Wrap-up

10|27|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


Highlights from the Huawei pavilion at GITEX in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with interviews with current Huawei customers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei: GITEX 2014 Day 1 Highlights

10|27|14   |   2:58   |   (0) comments


Highlights from the Huawei pavilion at GITEX (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition), an annual computer and electronics trade show and conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
AT&T: Merger Review Halt Won't Hurt Us
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 10/23/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Roku Raises $25M, But for What?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/23/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed