Pluribus is explaining its products publicly Tuesday, the first time it’s disclosed specifics about what it does. And Oracle is among the customers providing testimonial for the launch. Oracle is running Solaris on the Pluribus platform (whether this is only a lab effort isn’t immediately clear) and is announcing Pluribus as a gold-level member of the Oracle PartnerNetwork.
Apparently, Oracle likes these guys. “We basically free them from having to deal with VMware or Cisco,” says Alessandro Barbieri, Pluribus’ senior director of product management.
CloudFlare and Tibco are also being announced as Pluribus customers.
Pluribus has designed a top-of-rack switch that creates a new spin on application-aware networking. In fact, it’s not really application-aware networking, but the reverse: a platform that lets applications glean information about the network.
In Pluribus’ view, that suddenly eliminates the need for a lot of infrastructure. Monitoring networks, storage-area networks (SANs), and even the overlay networks of the virtual world all get absorbed into one network, the company claims. Even the chaining of Layer 4-7 appliances can be handled differently.
Switch Meets CPU
Pluribus accomplishes all this by linking a switch chip directly to a server CPU and having the CPU operating system run both entities. (Putting it another way: Pluribus replaces a network interface card (NIC) with an Ethernet switch chip.) Normally, the switch chip has its own software; Broadcom’s come with a software development kit (SDK), for instance. Pluribus threw that out the window, using its own software instead.
That software strategy means Pluribus did more than just put a switch chip next to a CPU; Pluribus prefers to say the architecture is “fused” rather than “integrated.”
These Freedom Server-Switches, as the company named them, also run a distributed hypervisor called Netvisor.
The Server-Switches are based on off-the-shelf chips: Different version use Broadcom or Intel switch chips and, optionally, a Marvell network processor (the one from acquired startup Xelerated, if you remember them) for adding quality-of-service.
Finding Use Cases
The question is: Now what? Pluribus could do any number of things with the Server-Switch, so one of the company’s challenges will be to settle on a few use cases, among the many that are possible, to can explain why this fused platform is useful.
One early example will be network monitoring, although it actually has more to do with the amount of memory Pluribus provides. Normally, an operator installs a separate network for connecting monitoring tools to the equipment that runs analytics; this is where Gigamon made its name. Pluribus says it can run “Gigamon in a box,” avoiding the need for a separate monitoring network.
Pluribus has also been working with F5 in a setup where Pluribus’ Server-Switch runs virtual instances of F5 functions — speaking to the consolidation of equipment that Pluribus thinks it can facilitate.
(It also smacks of the Citrix/Palo Alto Networks partnership that was also announced Tuesday, in which Palo Alto’s virtual firewalls can be hosted on Citrix’s SDX platform. Layer 4-7 gear, in virtual form, seems to be spreading its way around the network.)
The Freedom Server-Switches run up to 48 10-Gb/s ports with 40-Gb/s uplinks. They come in 1U and 2U sizes running single- or dual-core Xeon processors and, as mentioned above, a variety of switch chips or network processors. They’re due to ship this month, and a higher-end version, the F64-XL with 256 GBytes of memory, among other features, is coming in April.