Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Victoria Livschitz, Ignacio M. Llorente

Blog Feed Post

Building a Plexxi Network

[This post is penned by Plexxi executive Bill Koss]

Two months ago I read an interesting blog post by Greg Ferro titled “Cheap Network Equipment Makes a Better Data Centre.”  At Plexxi, I am the person who leads our sales team and I found the post interesting because I think there is a lot of disinformation in the market regarding the cost of procuring networks.  Every week it seems I read a report or article on networking margins, port prices, market share, SDN, bare metal, leaf/spine, open source, linux, etc.  When I speak to customers, there is an equal amount of confusion and in my view it perpetuates the current state in favor of the incumbents.

As a level set, when a potential client asks: what does Plexxi do?  I tell them we build ethernet switches based on merchant silicon; we use Linux for an operating system, we use a photonic inter-connect fabric and distributed controller architecture.  Our switches speak ethernet and IP, just like all ethernet switches, but it is the controller and photonic fabric that make our switches different.  Together we believe that our technology results in a system that has transformative scale, performance, and efficiency advantages compared to legacy network architectures.

wrk-blog-pic1

Recently we provided a proposal to a potential client regarding their network.  As with Greg Ferro’s project, we provided an all in proposal that included cables, software, transceivers, switches, controllers, accessories, support costs and the fabric interconnect ports.  There were two design options based around the size of the interconnect fabric, which most people refer to as the spine or core.   I have condensed some of the details for reading ease, but I think this is a transparent description of the proposal regarding (i) the costs of building a Plexxi network and (ii) how it is different with the choice of two different fabric options, much like the blog post from Greg.  Here is the summary table of the network design options:

# 10G Client Ports $ Per 10G Client Port Fabric Size

OSR

Total 1 Year Cost

288

$1,223 2.88 Tbps

1:1

$384,950

1152

$1,223 11.52 Tbps

1:1

$1,539,800

2304

$1,223 23.04 Tbps

1:1

$3,079,600

432

$517 1.44 Tbps

3:1

$243,160

1728

$517 5.76 Tbps

3:1

$972,640

3456

$517 11.52 Tbps

3:1

$1,945,280

In a Plexxi network, we use a controller architecture.  Our controller computes efficient photonic forwarding topologies.  This type of architecture, often referred to as SDN, provides a number of benefits, but it begins with a fluid pool of capacity within the fabric.  The capacity in our photonic fabric can be allocated, reassigned and reconfigured.  Without providing a long technical description of how our controller operates, an important concept to understand is we use 100% of the fabric and we do not implement spanning tree or block links.  We compute forwarding topologies using multi-flow commodity, graph theory math; that is one of the jobs of Plexxi Control.  A Plexxi fabric can be used inside your data center and the use of a photonic fabric means the fabric can be extended to campus and metro area designs.  Here are a few points regarding our controller and fabric architecture:

  • The photonic fabric is managed as pool of capacity
  • Applications and workloads that are important can be assigned fabric capacity
  • Capacities can change, evolve and forwarding topologies can be diurnal
  • Controller based fabrics are deterministic as opposed to distributed state fabrics that take time to compute state, which may or may not result in an optimal design.
  • Controller based fabrics can centrally compute optimal paths and provide fast convergence by pre-computing failure recovery states

The use of a controller with a photonic fabric provides a number of scaling benefits.  The most obvious benefit is the linear cost curves in terms of price per client port.  The following chart shows the 10G client port cost in scaling from 400 to 3400 ports.

wrk-blog-pic2

The linearity of the Plexxi architecture in terms of client port cost can also be seen in terms of power and cooling.  In a Plexxi architecture, the performance of the network benefits when the controller tries to keep packets in the photonic portion of the network as much as possible, thus limiting silicon switch hops and incurring latency.  Uniformed latency and uniformed power consumption per client power are benefits of the Plexxi architecture:

wrk-blog-pic3

A question we often get is whether a Plexxi network requires a greenfield or can it be deployed in a brownfield.  The answer is there are no greenfields.  Plexxi networks have been deployed in a number of variations.  We have had clients deploy Plexxi in the spine, while leaving the legacy ToR and server connections in place.  We have had clients deploy Plexxi as a replacement strategy for the their leaf/spine network, thus collapsing a two tier or three tier network to a single tier.  We have had clients deploy Plexxi between data centers providing a single hop, load-balanced fabric between data centers.  Traditionally, most Plexxi customers connect our switches to legacy routers and switches using 10G or 40G ports.  We have a handful of customers who have extended the Plexxi fabric via DWDM connections to legacy optical transport platforms.

Another question I have been asked is whether or not our photonic fabric is proprietary.  The way to think about our photonic fabric is to compare it to the fabric modules found in traditional core and spine switches.  What we have done at Plexxi is to take the backplane capacity in spine/core switches found in multi-tier networks and distribute that capacity into each switch.  When you add port capacity, you add fabric capacity.  Five years ago this type of network design was not possible, only with the advent of the modern controller architecture coupled with low cost, multi-path photonic interconnects has it become possible.   The design objective of a Plexxi network is to manage the network as a resource pool that can be correlated with the needs of compute and storage.   We believe that networking is entering the era of plenty and that networks built with rich amounts of path diversity are building blocks of the new networks.  We believe this because that has been direction of compute and storage.  Compute and storage have entered the era of plenty and it is time for the network to enter the era of plenty as well.  The era of plenty for networking will be built using a controller architecture because a controller architecture combined with photonics, merchant silicon and Linux, is the best means to deliver the following benefits:

  • Simplicity: Single tier photonic network
  • High Utilization: Load balanced L2 fabric
  • Controller Architecture: Unified view of network fabric
  • Uniformed Low Latency: Direct connectivity
  • Faster Failure Handling: Pre-computed forward topologies that converge rapidly to target optimum
  • Elastic Network Capacity: Large-scale computation and path optimization through Controller enables fluidity of network capacity
  • Reduced Cabling: Simplified network element deployment and insertion

/wrk

[Today's fun fact: The average American/Canadian drinks about 600 sodas a year. Of course, the American version is 72 ounces compared to Canada's 12 ounces.]

The post Building a Plexxi Network appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Bill Koss

Bill Koss is VP of Sales at Plexxi. Sales is about having a keen understanding of customer needs and matching them to appropriate solutions so that everyone benefits. The best salespeople are fluent in both business and technology, translating product into value. Vice President of Sales he has acquired these skills over a 20-year career in networking and information technology.

Plexxi is Bill’s fifth venture-backed startup, having successfully exited CrossComm, SDL, Sonoma Systems and Internet Photonics. Notably, Ciena acquired Internet Photonics in 2004 to include the CN4200 platform, which became a $1B+ product line. While with Ciena, Bill held a variety of roles including VP of North American Sales and VP of Global Partners. During Bill’s tenure at Ciena, annual revenue grew from $290M to $700M.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.