& cplSiteName &

SDN Startup Does Optical Rings

Craig Matsumoto
9/7/2012
50%
50%

It's well known that Plexxi is advocating fiber transport around the data center. What's quirky is that this transport is happening on fiber rings, mimicking the add/drop traffic patterns of the telecom world.

Yes, a hip software-defined networking (SDN) startup wants to talk about DWDM optical rings. They're going old-school Light Reading on us.

But Cambridge, Mass.-based Plexxi, which sells a top-of-rack switch, isn't just about optical, or just about Layer 2 switching. In a sense, it's grabbing at every layer of the networking stack and every piece of cloud computing.

Its software sorts resources -- storage, bandwidth, computing power -- into groups that Plexxi calls "affinities." Then it connects those virtual machines via a DWDM wavelength on the optical ring, with Plexxi software keeping track of the changes in network topology.

"People are doing things like workload placement based on where resources are available, where there's memory available -- that's workload placement today. We can't make the network another thing we have to solve for. We'll make the network match the workload placement," says Mat Mathews, vice president of product management.

"What we've done is hire a bunch of MIT PhDs who do algorithms. And this is a more efficient way to control network topologies than running distributed protocols that are nondeterministic, because we can say, 'Make it fit exactly.'"

The setup implies that Plexxi has developed the kind of multilayer management system being championed by companies such as Cyan Inc.

Plexxi uses off-the-shelf optics, taking advantage of inexpensive components that can reach spans of 2km. Some customization might have been involved; Plexxi didn't develop any photonics itself, but Mathews describes the company as having specified certain things about the optics to tailor to its particular market.

One thing Plexxi doesn't do is move virtual machines. In VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) verbiage, Plexxi doesn't initiate vSphere vMotions. What it will do is react to a vMotion action by making sure the application keeps getting what it needs from the network.

The eerie part is that Plexxi can do this without any knowledge of the applications themselves. Its software can look at traffic flows and draw its own conclusions -- dishing unused bandwidth to an application that looks like it needs it, for instance. But apps that explicitly request things from the software -- apps that explain the affinities they want -- would get first dibs on altering the DWDM network, Mathews says.

Plexxi's switches communicate with each other through an agent that's similar to OpenFlow but includes control of the physical layer. Plexxi doesn't have plans to offer OpenFlow in place of that agent, but the company could work with OpenFlow networks by opening up an API to an OpenFlow controller, Mathews says. In that way, Plexxi could interoperate with the non-Plexxi majority of the data center.

Plexxi exists in that annoying pre-dawn space that's now called "beta," meaning it's shipping to a few customers and is still tweaking the product. The company didn't even want Light Reading publishing the name of its software, because the name might be altered depending on what goes on in beta (or in trademark due-diligence checking).

But Plexxi does have customers, and it's got some devoted investors that have supplied $48 million in three funding rounds in 18 months. Only the first round was really necessary; the others were initiated by the investors to prevent Plexxi from seeking other investors, Mathews says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(13)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:36 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Didn't think of this earlier, but -- if you built with Plexxi, would that lead to less usage of vmotion, and less of a need for VXLANs?


I haven't really thought it through; it just occurred to me now. Would you be able to get by with less moving-around of virtual machines in the network, or is that an unrelated factor? (Or totally irrelevant?)

Mat Mathews
50%
50%
Mat Mathews,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:35 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Hi Craig - thanks for the great writeup!


Re: VM mobility - our solution would not alter the need/usage of VM mobility (like vMotion), yet our fabric solution will make sure to understand and reorganize itself appropriately as this moves occur. This is more than just managing port profile moves, but also making sure any network attributes needed by associated workloads are preserved.


WRT the need for VxLAN - the use of edge network overlays such as VxLAN are meant to solve a number of issue such as extending L2 domains across L3 routed boundaries, VLAN expansion, and others. These edge network overlays look to us like just another type of Affinity Group and we would ensure that the physical fabric is best matched to the needs of those overlay tunnels, thereby creating a very efficient fabric "underlay". This helps ensure customers don't have to overbuild or overprovision a fabric to accomodate the dynamic and unpredictable network effects that overlays could have, and also makes the network "co-orchestrated" with this new overlay network, rather than a separately managed entity.


More details are coming soon!

rainbowarrior
50%
50%
rainbowarrior,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:35 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Good to see someone is putting "Networking" back into SDN with real networking gear. Interesting concept but I guess it will have to compare cost-wise to Ethernet. What's the price point going to look like?

Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:34 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Thanks for the explanation, Mat.  Sorry we gave away everything in that photo.  :)

Mat Mathews
50%
50%
Mat Mathews,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:34 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Thanks!  We'll announce price points soon (this fall), but it is fundamentally an Ethernet-based solution and will be *very* cost effective compared to traditional leaf-spine, multi-tier, or clos/fat-tree fabrics.

victorblake
50%
50%
victorblake,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:21:30 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


ADC Etherloop


NetInsight Ether(something forgot the name)


Infinera


 


All similar concepts of integrating optical transport w/ Ethernet. I think there have all been strong technologies and products. They problem all of these face is that they all verticially integrate Ethernet and optical which is fine if you have fiber to burn for one application. For operations that need to share the fiber between two different applications (SONET and Ethernet for example) that won't work. Of course that is diminisihing problem, explaing the success of Infinera and perhaps some new SDN startups.


I do not see any reason Infinera could put an SDN API in front of their platform to do the same. Unfortunately for them doing so would also make their product a commodity. But isn't that the challenge for an open standard for all of the incumbent vendors ?


 


-Victor

martent1999
50%
50%
martent1999,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:28 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Victor,


with due respect, the types of products you mention are in a different class from where the Plexxi solution fits. The Plexxi solution is focused on the datacenter ToR, Aggregation and Core layers using an optical fabric...


 

Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:26 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


I don't think you'll see much demand for Sonet in the data center, which is the place Plexxi is targeting. Likewise, i don't think Plexxi has any ambitions on being part of the telecom market.


So, while I see your point about optical+Ethernet integration, the networks Plexxi is targeting would be just Ethernet.


But to your point -- yes, this kind of integration has been done before.


About putting an API in front of an Infinera box -- that does sound like it would work. Infinera does think its optical transport could benefit SDN networks, and I think they envision an approach not too different from what you're talking about -- they don't think it would commoditize their gear.

patentchoi
50%
50%
patentchoi,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:24 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


The lurking fear in trying to do it all, is that no single component of the solution will stand out, and then it becomes an easy picking for the big boyz. Hopefully DC will be a well constrained problem long enough for the solution to gain acceptance.

victorblake
50%
50%
victorblake,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:21:24 PM
re: SDN Startup Does Optical Rings


Craig and martinet1999 --


I understand and agree with both of you. I wasn't trying to suggest anything other than to make the technology analogy.


As for SONET in the data center. I can't help but to say that of course, as a transport for 10G Ethernet, it's already there in any locations requiring longer distances than typical baseband Ethernet transports. But that's not my point.


Will be interesting to see what Infinera, and for that matter the POTS folks do with SDN.


 

Page 1 / 2   >   >>
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Turkcell Challenges Turkey's Current TV Market

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Baris Zavaroglu, TV and rntertainment business director of Turkcell, explains Turkcell's strategy in elevating the small and uncertain TV market in Turkey.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Altibox’s Infrastructure Synergy Strategy Reduces Deployment Costs

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Thomas Skjelbred, CEO of Altibox, on how to improve efficiency and reduce deployment coast through infrastructure synergy in Norway.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Ismail Butun on the Changing Role of Turkcell

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ismail Butun, chief marketing officer of Turkcell, explains the importance of video and mobile services for the future of the company.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
IDC's Emir Halilovic on Trends of Cloudification

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Emir Halilovic of IDC CEMA discusses the future and direction of cloudification. Also, the all-cloud approach taken by Huawei and others in the industry.
LRTV Custom TV
How Intel Is Powering the 5G Era

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Light Reading tours a series of 5G "super demos" so see how Intel envisions the 5G-connected future. We take a look at a prototype connected BMW, a light pole with environmental sensors that provides 5G wireless to a smart home and a fully untethered virtual reality experience.
LRTV Custom TV
Source Photonics CEO Doug Wright Talks About the Future of Source Photonics

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Source Photonics' CEO, Doug Wright, talks to Light Reading about how the company is continuously investing in its operations to meet not only its customers' current technology demands but also to deliver their next-generation technology needs.
LRTV Custom TV
Live Demo: DevOps in Service Chains & 5G Network Slices PoC

3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


Executives from PoC collaborating companies – Patrick Waldemar, VP and Head of Technology at Telenor Research, John Healy, VP of the Datacenter Network Solutions Group at Intel, Vincent Spinelli, SVP of Global Sales and Marketing at RIFT.io, Mats Eriksson, CEO and co-founder of Arctos Labs, and Mats Nordlund, CEO and co-founder of Netrounds – review ...
LRTV Documentaries
The Year of Fat & Skinny Bundles

3|29|17   |   21:06   |   (0) comments


In this fireside chat, Roku's Andrew Ferrone predicts that 2017 will be the year of multichannel OTT video bundles and spells out other trends in the OTT and pay-TV markets.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
BBWF 2016: Orange Poland's Next-Gen Central Office

3|28|17   |     |   (0) comments


Introduction to Orange Poland's legacy next-generation central office solution.
LRTV Custom TV
Viavi at OFC 2017

3|28|17   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's Editor-in-Chief Craig Matsumoto reports from the Viavi booth at OFC and gets an update on the 400G testing market from Tom Fawcett, VP and GM of LAB & Production. At this year's event, Viavi won three awards from Lightwave magazine and showcased an interoperability demo with Ethernet Alliance and Finisar.
LRTV Custom TV
Connecting the Entire Home With DOCSIS 3.1

3|28|17   |   3:58:   |   (0) comments


Hitron Technologies had the first cable modem certified for DOCSIS 3.1 and already has over 120,000 units in the field. Greg Fisher, CTO of Hitron, provides an update on his company's rollout of new gateways and why he thinks DOCSIS 3.1 will continue to drive value for operators into 2017 and beyond.
LRTV Interviews
Amazon Prime's Hand of God Creator on Producing for OTT

3|28|17   |     |   (1) comment


Ben Watkins is the creator, writer and producer of Hand of God, a series on Amazon Prime. At Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen conference in Denver, he explained the advantages of producing for an OTT platform versus traditional TV.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
FTTH No Slam Dunk for Cable
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/23/2017
Unlocking China's $194B Telecom Market
Robert Clark, 3/27/2017
Ericsson Tightens Focus, Warns of $1.7B Q1 Hit
Iain Morris, News Editor, 3/28/2017
Welcome to the Wild West of Privacy
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
At MWC 2017, Qualcomm's CTO Matt Grob talks to Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders about the progress being made in the development of the technologies and standards that will underpin 5G.
Animals with Phones
Working From Home Doesn't Work for Everyone Click Here
You shouldn't nap on your keyboard, for instance.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.