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SDN Technology

Plexxi Poised for Big SP SDN Deployment

SDN switch vendor Plexxi plans to announce a major customer win for a big global communications provider in eight weeks or less, and is on target to achieve tenfold revenue growth by the end of the year. Also, it's launching a new SDN switch Tuesday.

Plexxi is "on the cusp" of disclosing a deal with a big service provider to deploy a vast SDN network in 14 countries with 96 points of presence, marketing VP Mike Welts told Light Reading. The web-scale communications provider has a large network requiring low-latency transactional traffic.

That large deal, combined with several big federal enterprise accounts, as well as service provider customers, will drive Plexxi to tenfold revenue growth this year, Welts says.

Plexxi says it is seeing strong demand for its products and networking philosophy.

Plexxi's target markets are looking to deploy scale-out apps such as big data. They're enterprises looking to run agile data centers. And they provide distributed cloud services, which applies to both enterprises and service providers, Welts says.

"From the service provider perspective, the key capabilities that exist in all our products is the ability to easily create a network fabric, regardless of locality," says Mat Mathews, Plexxi co-founder and VP of product management.

Plexxi defines a "fabric" as a set of network services that act as a single system. Rather than having to manage each element of the network separately, network operators can manage the entire fabric in unison. Network operators can also define how different applications use the network so that, for example, packets requiring low latency cross the fabric in a small number of hops. "In most networks, the users aren't equal. Some of them may have heavy bandwidth usage, others may have intermittent needs. The notion you can build a fabric that's one-size-fits-all for all customers seems kind of foolish," Mathews says.

Fabrics also replace traditional tiered, or "leaf-and-spine" architectures, where traffic routes from small switches to big switches and down again, requiring additional hops to traverse the network. In a fabric, the switches are interchangeable -- "scale-out" rather than leaf-and-spine, Welts says.

A fabric also lets network operators use more of the capacity of the network compared with leaf-and-spine architecture, which has to overprovision to manage traffic spikes, says Mathews.

Plexxi's vision focuses on applications rather than infrastructure. "In the old world you built your network infrastructure first and then you poured the applications into the network infrastructure," Mathews says. "In the new world, you need a dynamic network that scales out in real time to how the applications are deployed. You start with the applications, then you build the infrastructure to support it."

Plexxi's vision of application-focused networks is similar to Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy. Plexxi claims to differentiate by automating Layer 1, and also in that its fabric architecture eliminates the need to program switches individually. (See Cisco Beefs Up Network Automation Portfolio.)

"Architecturally, the fundamental difference between our networks and the incumbents is that the incumbents are traditional, legacy, multi-tier networks. They still go back to leaf-spine. We've converged into a single tier," Welts says.


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Tenfold revenue growth is impressive, but it helps to come from a small start. "Plexxi has some compelling technology, but it has yet to make appreciable commercial gains in the market," IDC analyst Brad Casemore told Light Reading in January. At that time, new CEO Rich Napolitano had been at the helm for three months, and the company was transforming its marketing to focus more on the benefits of software networks and less on abstract discussion of SDN. (See New Plexxi Chief Makes His Mark.)

On Tuesday, Plexxi launched its Switch 2 series. The switch makes use of Plexxi Control technology to dynamically change the fabric technology in real time, intelligently forwarding traffic and delivering network capacity. The switch is available immediately priced starting at $25,000.

The Switch 2 is optimized for east-west traffic -- traffic flowing inside the data center, between servers and storage, rather than north/south traffic that goes from the data center to external users. Facebook says it sees 1,000 times more east/west traffic than north/south. That also suits how most service providers networks are used, Plexxi notes.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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