Pluribus Networks – A Step Beyond SDN

Pluribus Highlights

  • Founded in 2010 by 3 domain experts with 200 patents between them
  • Expanding into UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Portugal
  • Creates a ‘virtual underlay’ which goes beyond many SDN approaches
  • Sells its own Netvisor network hypervisor and appliances (using Broadcom and Intel Alta chips)
  • 437 vendor appliances running Pluribus’ software

pluribusHaving looked at Vyatta and Nicira a couple of years ago before they were acquired, I’m always interested in the development of network virtualisation and hypervising so jumped at the opportunity of talking to another start up working in this area. I spoke with CMO Dave Ginsburg and Paul Donovan, its new EMEA sales director. You’ll want to know more about what it does and how its approach compares to other SDN vendors.

Pluribus – a new Company with lots of Experience

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Dave Ginsburg

Pluribus Networks was founded by Sunay Tripathi, Robert Drost, and C.K. Ken Yang, who between them own over 200 patents and have 50 years combined experience in network virtualisation and kernel development, proximity communications and high speed serial links respectively. Founded in 2010, it is funded by NEA, Menlo Ventures, Mohr Davidow, China Broadband, and AME Cloud Ventures.

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Paul Donovan

This month it has announced its expansion into the UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Portugal, having signed its first European distributor, Big Technology earlier this year. It has now signed up IGX, LAN2LAN, LATO Networks and Telesys as networking resellers.

Wire Once, Rewire Virtually

Pluribus’ software and appliances provide a ‘virtual underlay’ fabric cluster that synchronises with the network overlay, eliminating the need of separate monitoring fabrics, taps and most tools. On this it has built some interesting functionality. In particular the inNetwork:

  • SDN itself uses its Freedom development kit libraries and provides high bandwidth, low-latency ‘true server programming of application flows’
  • Analytics application allows wire-rate monitoring at the control plane level as opposed to just sampling
  • Virtual Networking application is easier to manage because it avoids using separate over- and under-lays by the provision of the fabric cluster; you can ‘wire once, rewire virtually’

It currently has 3 products spread out across these network functions. In particular:

  • Netvisor network hypervisor – available as a software-only product for the white box market; it works with Linux, Open Solaris and FreeBSD operating systems
  • E68-M (a 1U appliance running on a Broadcom Trident 2 chip), which addresses L2/L3 functions as well as controller overlay SDN and some inNetwork analysis areas
  • F64 (a 2U appliance running on Intel’s Alta chip) and stretching into Cloud controller, inNetwork services and applications, NFV platform virtualisation and ‘storage as a fabric’ areas

It argues that products such as Cumulus Networks’ Pica8 only goes as far as the white box software-only market and that traditional network vendors and VMWare – only as far as L2/L3 functions and SDN controller overlay.

Tibco, Lucera and Red Hat use Pluribus software

There are currently 437 vendor appliances running Pluribus’ software. Recent announcements include:

  • Tibco – includes Pluribus’ F64 Server Switch in its Enterprise Message Service Appliance and TIBCO FTL Message Switch; Tibco uses this to add networking and deploy its Business Management software in Cloud environments.
  • Lucera – uses Pluribus technology in its high performance financial trading infrastructure which connects Chicago, New York and London.

It has recently announced its first certified cloud controller solution based on its Freedom Server-Switch and the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform controller.

Some conclusions – SDN is hard, but needed

Pluribus fabric-based approach allows it to avoid the complexity of matching the over-lay to the under-lay in VMware-based solutions (although the acquisition of Virsto is helping with storage there) and goes beyond those integrated system architectures that largely ignore networking all together. It is also less hardware-centric than Cisco ACI’s spine and leaf CLOS architecture. By selecting Broadcom and Intel chips for its own appliances it is covering the commoditisation of the network hardware market.

Networking is lagging behind servers and storage in virtualisation – due largely to the dominance by Cisco of the Enterprise/Consumer markets (see Figure) and it is great to see Pluribus adding its vast experience to the development of SDN approaches. It’s even harder in networking than storage to establish yourself as a new player and Pluribus has been sensible to sign up partners such as Tibco, Lucera and Red Hat to enhance its own software and appliance approach. Unlike Nicira and Vyatta let’s hope it avoids being acquired: even if it does it’s clearly adding to the democratisation of the networking market.

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