SDN architectures

Insieme Is Imminent

Visions for the next-generation datacenter are expected to come a little closer to reality this week with a much-anticipated announcement from Cisco Systems regarding its Insieme venture. However, other datacenter infrastructure vendors have also swooped in to steal a little of Cisco's thunder.

First, what we know from industry chatter about Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s announcement: The company is set for the Wednesday launch of its Application-Centric Infrastructure, featuring the Nexus switch family from Insieme. The announcement is coming about one month after much of the industry expected it to take place at Interop New York in early October (maybe all the attention being focused on Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo that week discouraged Cisco from vain attempts to grab the spotlight). Insieme is the so-called spin-in (majority-owned by Cisco) that first caused a stir more than a year and a half ago, when it was identified as Cisco' secret-but-not-so-secret SDN project. (See Cisco Outlines an SDN Plan, Cisco Drops Hints About Insieme & SDN, and Cisco's Insieme Doesn't Like Your SDN Model.)

Since then, Cisco has been particular about not associating Insieme -- and, really, many other Cisco products -- with the term "SDN," perhaps because of the perception its infrastructure market success could be hobbled as SDN architectures take hold, or maybe because what Insieme's doing has more to do with infrastructure and hardware programmability than it does with SDN controllers or overlays. Anyway, we'll find out for sure on Wednesday.

The long countdown to Insieme's unveiling has left something of a datacenter infrastructure news void that Cisco's rivals have been only too happy to fill. First, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) last week announced its SDN-ready MetaFabric, a switching and routing fabric to be applied both inside datacenters and between multiple datacenters. (See Juniper Unveils Datacenter MetaFabric.)

At the same time, Juniper also announced new QFX switches for the datacenter, support in its Contrail SDN controller for VMware hypervisors, and an architecture plan for how MetaFabric could be used through its MX Series 3D routers and over Ethernet VPNs to support SDN applications between multiple datacenters. For its part, Juniper told Light Reading that its announcement had been planned for late October long before Cisco had settled on November 6 for its news.

Also, just this week, Arista Networks Inc. took its swipe at Cisco-Insieme, announcing its new 7000X switches for its single-tier Spline Network architecture for datacenters. In its press release, Arista makes some direct comparisons between its datacenters switches and Cisco's saying its new 7300 switches can be used in pairs to deliver more 10G and 40G port density and higher total system capacity at lower power than a single Cisco Catalyst 6509E switch. (See Arista Announces Datacenter Switches.)

These are all complex architecture announcements that the datacenter sector no doubt will be sorting out for weeks to come, but one thing is clear from the timing of announcements from Cisco, Juniper, and Arista -- the infrastructure re-imagining for the next-generation datacenter has begun, and it's not just about software and virtualization.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

DOShea 11/6/2013 | 10:17:49 PM
Re: Open is the new black Yeah, I know--the 1990s companies I'm talking about are the programmable switch companies like Redcom Labs and Excel. The latter actually was acquired by Lucent long ago.
dodgerfan78 11/5/2013 | 5:22:57 PM
Re: Open is the new black Nuage is not 90s, it's 2013
dwx 11/5/2013 | 12:50:45 PM
Re: Open is the new black All of these announcements of switch gear in the recent week with Arista and Juniper are using the same silicon, the Broadcom Trident-2.   It's really only the proprietary software in the fixed config switches differentiating them so making it open doesn't really buy them much. The chipset does support OpenFlow but thus far no one has announced support for it. 

Cumulus Networks, does have truly "open" software that now runs on cheaper "baremetal" 32x40G Trident-2 switches from Quanta, etc.  So far though their software doesn't have near the feature set of Juniper, Arista, or Cisco out of the box, and most customers aren't going to be developing their own features.  The other big one is support.  There are lots and lots of companies supporting open-source solutions, from Hadoop to Openstack, etc.   Who supports an open Ethernet switch?   Vendors like Cumulus are obviously trying to change that.  

It's strange Arista is now pushing a middle of row/end of row "Spline" design versus their traditional leaf/spine.  My guess is to better cater to people who love structured cabling and hate top of rack switches, which does still make up some datacenters.  Although I can't imagine pulling 1000-2000 fibers back to a pair of 8 or 16 slot switches...   

DOShea 11/5/2013 | 8:36:24 AM
Re: Open is the new black That may be true, though if we want to go back far enough, a handful of companies were talking about the importance of hardware programability in the public network during the late 1990s--different vision, but similar ambition.
^ip4g^ 11/5/2013 | 12:06:27 AM
Re: Open is the new black Didn't AlcaLu start this off, with Nuage ?
Carol Wilson 11/4/2013 | 7:07:20 PM
Open is the new black Will any of these vendors out-do the others in taking a more open approach? I'm guessing Arista.

Is that even something they are talking about?
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