Barefoot Networks, the Nick McKeown-led chip company aiming to advance software-defined networking (SDN), announced today that it’s raised an additional $23 million, with Alibaba and Tencent as lead investors.
All told, the three-year-old company has raised $153 million.
Alibaba, Tencent, and Google all represent the customer base that Barefoot has targeted: cloud giants that have specific and sometimes unconventional ideas about how to handle networking in enormous data centers.
“This round was really about getting end users on board,” says Ed Doe, Barefoot’s vice president of product marketing.
Tofino & P4
Barefoot’s product is Tofino, a chip that would handle the networking chores inside a switch, just as Broadcom’s Tomahawk and Trident products do. Barefoot claims Tofino will be the fastest chip on the market, with aggregate throughput of 6.5 Tb/s in theory, but the real claim to fame is that Tofino represents a new kind of programmable switch.
Tofino is meant to run P4, a newly developed programming language for the data plane. OpenFlow, an early element of SDN, let network operators fill out tables to tell switches how to handle certain types of traffic. P4 takes the next step, letting them program the switch outright.
McKeown — a Stanford University professor who was instrumental in the early days of SDN — and Princeton University professor Jennifer Rexford have been leading the effort to develop the P4 language and the related P4.org community.
Tofino is due to begin sampling in December, and news of systems vendors using the chip could follow shortly, Doe says.
Photo: Honey Kochphon Onshawee on Pixabay.