Woven Weaves 10-Gig
Stealth-mode startup Woven Systems is developing a massively scaleable 10-Gbit/s switch to compete with InfiniBand. The startup plans to launch its first product next year.
Woven Systems is taking aim at enterprise networks and clusters, says Harry Quackenboss, Woven Systems’ CEO. The product will include Layer 2 hardware and software that can be scaled up to “very large configurations,” linking servers and storage. This “will offer a port count and a cost-per-port similar to InfiniBand,” Quackenboss tells Next-Gen Data Center Forum.
A number of InfiniBand vendors already offer 288-port switches, although Quackenboss says Woven is also planning to emulate InfiniBand’s ability to link a number of switches together to provide “thousands of ports.”
With its low latency and high bandwidth, InfiniBand has mainly been used as an interconnect for high-performance computing. However, the technology is now in the spotlight following Cisco Systems Inc.’s (Nasdaq: CSCO) $250 million acquisition of Topspin Communications Inc. and a raft of announcements from other vendors (see Cisco Takes On Topspin, Voltaire Strikes Up $15M Series E, and IBM's Cluster Bluster).
But Quackenboss says that deploying Woven’s technology, rather than InfiniBand, could save users a great deal of hassle. That's because Woven's switch will link directly to standard Gigabit Ethernet gear, supporting applications such as Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) clusters. “It doesn’t require gateways and convertors to connect it to the rest of the data center network. It doesn't require any additional training,” he says.
Quackenboss is also keen to tap the growing popularity of service-oriented architectures (SOAs), in which services based on application software run over different computing environments (see System Vendors Sight SOA). “Most of these are TCP/IP based,” he notes, “so having standard Ethernet is an advantage."
At least one analyst thinks Woven's prospects are good, but it will stand a battle against InfiniBand. "Ten-gigabit works well for some very heavy-duty clustered applications,” says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. “But the thing that InfiniBand has going for it now is that there are some big server vendors behind it and it is really cheap. Woven is really going to have to compete in terms of price and form factor.”
Woven's management hails from scrappy startups. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company was founded back in November 2003 by Dan Maltbie and Bert Tanaka, two former execs at Caspian Networks Inc., which makes routing and traffic-shaping gear. Quackenboss, who joined the firm earlier this year, was formerly CEO at the late Brightlink Networks, whose product was said to be a massively scaleable crossconnect. Brightlink's technology was sold to another former employee, Kerry Davis, and a group of unnamed licensees last year (see Brightlink Gets Second Chance). Davis has no apparent link with Woven.
Up to now, Woven has been self-funded by its founders, though Quackenboss says the startup is now talking to investors to raise its first round of external funding.
These are not the only discussions going on. ”We have talked to most of the major system vendors and several large software vendors,” says Quackenboss, adding that the startup is also interested in getting feedback from enterprise IT managers to help fine-tune its technology.
What is the roadmap like? “We’re not ready to pin it down any more finely than the first half of 2006,” says Quackenboss.
— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum