Plexxi is launching a new line of its software-controlled network switches for the data center, targeting high-frequency traders and others seeking ultra-low latency with a high-end switch model that offers direct Layer 1 connections between endpoints.
Called the Plexxi Switch 2 Series, the new family of switches from the five-year old startup are built on top of Broadcom’s Trident 2 chipset and controlled by Plexxi’s proprietary network controller. Premium versions come with 48 or 78 ports for 2.56 Tb/s of switching capacity.
Plexxi’s approach to software-defined networking has centered on tossing out the spine-and-leaf approach to network topology in favor of a mesh topology, in which every switch may connect directly to any other. Network controller software can then route traffic over the dozens or hundreds of available routes from point A to point B.
“We believe the current architecture of spine and leaf, which has been around for 20 years, is insufficient,” says Marten Terpstra, Plexxi’s senior director of product management. “If you have a two- or three-tier static network, you have to build your application on top of it with a bit of hope and prayer that the application will scale out on top of it.”
New with the switch series is a direct layer-one shortcut ability that allows traffic to bypass switching entirely inside the data center. Plexxi says that offers end-to-end latency of 50 nanoseconds, as opposed to the roughly 550-nanosecond latency that each switch would tack on to a trip.
It’s an order-of-magnitude speed gain, but one that is likely to appeal only to those most sensitive to latency — such as high-frequency traders.
Though not built on open controller software such as OpenDaylight, Plexxi’s controller is intended to integrate with orchestration software higher up the stack. VMware’s vCenter server management software is the most popular orchestrator at the moment, says Plexxi Vice President of Marketing Michael Welts, but others include Cloudera and custom integrations.
The wildest of those custom integrations is with Salesforce.com, for a Plexxi customer that uses the SaaS customer-relationship management service to store clients’ network information. The integration allows the unnamed Plexxi user to trigger customer provisioning from Salesforce.
“That one,” says Welts, “is a first.”