SYS-CON UK Authors: Salvatore Genovese, Jeremy Geelan, Jamie Matusow

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Plexxi Delivers Industry's First Complete SDN System

Workload-aware approach, Affinity Networking™, introduces new model for building data center networks

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- What's the problem in networking? It's getting the network to do what you want – simply and continuously. Today that problem is history as Plexxi, Inc. introduces the industry's first complete SDN (software defined network) system. Plexxi replaces the decades-old approach to building data center networks now recognized as too costly, too rigid, too dependent on manual configuration, and most importantly...at odds with modern application and cloud data traffic patterns. Based on the concept of Affinity Networking, Plexxi's innovation is simple: create the most direct networks by rendering and implementing efficient topologies based on actual workload needs (see our video on Affinity Networking).

"Big data, mobile and XaaS are bringing on new application connectivity requirements and more intense workloads at an accelerating pace. Legacy network switching architectures cannot respond to application needs," said David Husak, CEO of Plexxi. "Networking doesn't have to be this hard or frustrating. With 97 percent of the cost and complexity invested in today's networks providing zero value, Plexxi is on a mission to replace this mess with a complete SDN system for the data center – designed from the ground up – that makes networking simple, efficient and transparent."

Plexxi unveiled its first two products: Plexxi Control and the Plexxi Switch 1. Plexxi Control is server-based software that dynamically and continuously computes connectivity solutions to satisfy all workload needs. Plexxi Switches provide standard high-performance, low-latency 10Gb and 40Gbps Ethernet access connections, but interconnect with each other via Plexxi's high density, high capacity LightRail™ optical interface. The result is a system that directly manifests workload-optimized solutions in the real, physical network, creating a network that delivers to applications what they need, when they need it – every time, all the time.

Enabling the Cloud
One of the most important use cases for Plexxi is in cloud and virtualized data centers, which are being suffocated by overly complex, costly and rigid physical infrastructure that was never designed to support virtualization.

"This is a revolution and the networking incumbents are not getting the message," said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corporation. "The cloud is where 'network value' has to go, because the cloud is the new generation of 'online' that users have continually chased since the dawn of the Internet. We cannot keep throwing capacity at the problem by connecting everything to everything as a single monolithic network. It's inefficient and cost prohibitive. The solution is creating a new dynamic infrastructure that is created and dynamically formed by the cloud. Plexxi lets the network rise up to meet the cloud."

How Affinity Networking Works (the technical stuff)
Affinity Networking is based on a few foundational concepts:

  1. Servers, storage and networking devices (both physical and virtual) need to be connected to each other as directly as possible.
  2. More often than not, groups of these devices work together as part of an application workload, and exhibit what we call 'affinity' to each other.
  3. Instead of blindly distributing network capabilities evenly to all such devices in the network, they should be distributed directly and proportionally to these 'affinity groups'.

Today, partial SDN solutions that are layering software on top of legacy hardware obscure the real problems. Plexxi replaces today's mess of physical cabling, switch hierarchies and finicky distributed protocols with an elegant system – it combines sophisticated SDN software with streamlined, common sense hardware that leverages innovative scale-out optical multiplexing. This fundamentally transforms the performance and economics of cloud data center networking by creating a network where 100 percent of the value is directly attributed to application needs.

Plexxi Control provides SDN-based affinity-driven network orchestration, management, and control software that understands workload sensitivities network-wide and dynamically fits the network to the needs of the workloads through advanced algorithms. The multi-tier SDN controller architecture uses distributed processing at the edge of the network for scale and performance and centralized knowledge for topology planning and optimization, achieving incremental performance as the network grows. This architecture means the central controller does not need to be in the data forwarding path, and is therefore not subject to traditional centralized controller "flow setup" limitations. The Plexxi Switch provides the underlying dynamic physical network structure that can implement those fittings exactly as specified – by leveraging high-density optical multiplexing to create simple, single-tier, fully orchestratable networks. This patent-pending LightRail interconnect system provides 400 Gbps of dynamically assignable core capacity per switch, scaling linearly with each switch, achieving, for example, 100 Tbps in a 250-switch network.

"Software defined by itself is meaningless," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at ESG. "Defining application requirements and having infrastructure dynamically adapt to those requirements to guarantee service levels is what matters. The ability to control the outcome is what matters – and you can't control the outcome unless your underlying infrastructure is smart enough to adapt to changing requirements. That's probably the number one reason I'm fascinated with the likes of Plexxi. They not only let me build a smarter, much more efficient network, they adapt to guarantee I can accomplish my reason for being – to adapt appropriately to application demands."

How to Buy
Because networking should not have to be so hard, Plexxi is also introducing a simple, new approach to purchasing its technology, which is almost as easy as click-to-buy.

Pricing: Plexxi Switch 1 starts at $64,000 including all inter-switch optics and cabling; Plexxi Control starts at $5,000 per Switch. Monthly pricing options are available.

About Plexxi, Inc.
Plexxi has raised $48+ million in venture financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Northbridge Venture Partners. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, Plexxi also has development offices in Nashua, NH. For more information visit, http://www.plexxi.com.

SOURCE Plexxi, Inc.

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