But when Marvell acquired Cavium last month, “We had to make decisions,” said Eric Hayes, SVP and general manager of networking at Marvell. “We decided to focus all our efforts on Prestera moving forward.”
Prestera is Marvell’s line of switching chips that’s been around for more than 18 years.
Interestingly, Hayes came over to Marvell from Cavium. And he was instrumental in Cavium’s roughly $90 million acquisition of Xpliant in 2014.
But now, Hayes is not bullish on Xpliant. He said companies that have real purchasing power such as Amazon and Google are not interested in programmability at the switch. One of the main benefits of programmability is that networking functions can be moved off of servers and onto the switch itself. This frees up space on the server for money-making functions. But Hayes said the hyperscale players are moving these functions onto network interface cards (NICs) to run SDN applications. He cited Marvell’s LiquidIO line of smart NICs. LiquidIO actually came to Marvell via Cavium, as well.
Of the hyperscale players, Hayes said, “They don’t find value” in switch programmability. “We found at Xpliant that programmability offers value in niche applications.” As far as niches, he cited network monitoring, packet brokering, load balancing, and prototyping of new technologies.
Compared to Xpliant’s niche opportunities, the Prestera portfolio is a “very efficient and hardened infrastructure for switching,” said Hayes. “It’s very widely deployed in many applications that are high-volume such as the enterprise campus, to data center, to service provider networks.”
The engineers that had been working on Xpliant will “enable some level of flexibility in Prestera,” said Hayes. “This is a very surgical thing.”
Although the Xpliant brand is going away, all devices and customers are being fully supported for the lifetime of those devices. “We have a team of people that are supporting all our customers. They are able to continue developing on the Xpliant products, making sure those products remain successful,” said Hayes.
In late 2016, Arista Networks said it was using the Xpliant chip in its 7160 Series of switches. But in June Arista said its newest family of leaf and spine systems would be based on the Barefoot Tofino series of programmable Ethernet switch chips.