Recently I sat down with Matt Roman of Edgecore Networks and our own Alessandro Barbieri to talk about the latest developments in open network switching hardware and software and the innovations they enable.
Jay Gill: Welcome, Matt and Alessandro, and thanks for taking the time to help us understand the latest innovations in open network switching. Matt, let’s start with your perspective. Edgecore is a widely recognized leader in open networking. What are some of the latest innovations you’re bringing to the market?
Matt Roman: Thanks, Jay. We’re working hard to bring the latest and best hardware designs to market for a wide range of open networking applications, from data center to service provider to the campus edge. I’ll focus on some innovations in the data center-oriented products.
Of course, we continue to take advantage of the latest generation of switching ASICs and build them into high-performance hardware platforms. Single-chip solutions can support up to 12.8 terabits per second (Tb/s) today and 25.6 Tb/s soon, with port speeds up to 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE).
But it’s not all about speeds and feeds. These chips are getting more programmable, allowing user-defined forwarding with no performance impact, and adding substantial power to their instrumentation and telemetry for things like flow monitoring and packet capture.
JG: Matt, what else would you highlight in terms of hardware innovation for open networking?
MR: I’d say perhaps the biggest area of innovation is switches becoming more like servers. Some people don’t realize that our higher-end switches have really powerful multi-core CPUs that enable Linux-based containerized applications to run right on the switch. We also have those processors linked at 2 x 10G directly to the switch ASIC to support virtualized network functions (VNFs) that need a very high-performance data plane. Plus you get all the advantages of tapping into the world of Linux-based open-source tools and applications and bringing DevOps speed and agility to networking. That’s what this high-level diagram (below) illustrates.
JG: Alessandro, I know Pluribus is taking advantage of some of those hardware features in the Netvisor® ONE operating system, the Adaptive Cloud Fabric™ and Pluribus UNUM™ with Insight Analytics. What do they enable?
Alessandro Barbieri: Yes, it’s true that these server capabilities built into the switch hardware are a key part of the reason that we can offer really powerful embedded flow monitoring and telemetry on Netvisor ONE without the need for special-purpose packet brokers or network probes. The switch effectively becomes the probe and it can extract metadata from every TCP connection. We then aggregate that information for the entire fabric and bring it into the external UNUM Insight Analytics module, which can monitor and analyze over two billion flows.
JG: Alessandro, Pluribus has really taken advantage of those server-like capabilities in a powerful way by creating the Adaptive Cloud Fabric as a distributed, controllerless SDN application that runs on every switch in the network. What would you point to as key benefits to customers?
AB: Yes, that’s absolutely right. These powerful CPUs provide a foundation for the Adaptive Cloud Fabric, which delivers a long list of benefits that our customers love, such as fabric-wide service provisioning and visibility.
We take full advantage of those internal 10G CPU-to-switch Ethernet links in many ways. For example, we can separate the routing control plane on the internal 10G links, delivering a more scalable control plane solution compared to switches using the PCIe interface for routing, switching and configuring the ASIC switch. On the internal 10G links we can also run high-speed packet capture directly on the switch and store the captured pcap files on the switch SSDs (solid-state drives).
A server-class control plane is also the foundation of our multi-tenant routing architecture, where we spin up separate FRR (open source free-range routing) containers for each tenant.
And really, this is just the beginning. There is so much more software innovation that we and others can pursue using these powerful server-like capabilities, including enhancing automation and creating new services.
JG: Very exciting stuff – thanks to both of you for this illuminating discussion.
Matt Roman is the Director of Product Line Management for Edgecore Networks and is responsible for the open networking portfolio and strategy, including product management, product marketing, technical marketing, and technology partnerships. Matt is a 25-year veteran in the networking industry and previously held senior product management and technical marketing roles at Extreme Networks, Enterasys Networks, and Enablence Technologies.
Alessandro Barbieri is Vice President, Product Management at Pluribus Networks. Alessandro has over 17 years of engineering, technical marketing, and product management experience in the networking industry. Prior to joining Pluribus, Alessandro served as the Director of Product Management for several of Cisco’s Data Center and Enterprise networking product lines, including the launch of the latest generation of Catalyst 6800 core switching platform. His specialties include data center networking and high-speed Ethernet technologies, where he contributed in shaping the 40 GbE and 100 GbE IEEE standard. Alessandro’s main responsibilities at Pluribus include managing the Pluribus product portfolio and technical marketing activities.
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About the Author
Jay Gill is Senior Director of Marketing at Pluribus Networks, responsible for product marketing and open networking thought leadership. Prior to Pluribus, he guided product marketing for optical networking at Infinera, and held a variety of positions at Cisco focused on growing the company’s service provider business. Earlier in his career, Jay worked in engineering and product development at several service providers including both incumbents and startups. Jay holds a BSEE and MSEE from Stanford and an MBA from UCLA Anderson.