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Startup touting data center fabric that will put a scare into Cisco, Juniper

Infinetics believes it can scale beyond Cisco FabricPath, Juniper QFabric

By , Network World
June 23, 2011 10:00 AM ET

Network World - The ability of your data center fabric to support millions of servers with low cost and power may not be due to advances from your major switch vendor, or to standards they may embrace.

It might be the result of an arrangement your switch vendor has with a handful of small, privately held companies developing software designed to accomplish just such a task.

One such company is Infinetics, a stealthy Massachusetts startup developing a software platform for data center switches and silicon designed to drastically lower the cost-per-gigabit/second of switch ports, and latency, as these switches support more and more servers. The company's product, which facilitates network virtualization, is intended to overcome the number of ports-per-switch limits of the fabric solutions from the major vendors as they scale to support multiple data centers in a cloud computing environment.

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"We can be a threat or opportunity for architectures" from major switch vendors, like Cisco's FabricPath and Juniper's QFabric, says Infinetics Chief Marketing Officer Anthony Antonuccio.

Infinetics isn't alone in this game. Others with similar proposals include Nicira, Big Switch Networks, ConteXtream and, of course, VMware.

Infinetics is in discussion with several of the major data center infrastructure and switch vendors about adding its product to theirs. Discussions are deepest with Arista Networks, IBM, HP and Korean OpenFlow switch vendor Pica8, Antonuccio says.

Arista says the Infinetics software, and that of the other network virtualization players, will integrate with its EOS operating system to optimize cloud computing environments.

"Arista is building an open networking platform based on EOS working with several controller products to deliver 10Gbps switching that integrates with the cloud architecture to lower the cost and power while improving the utilization of cloud networking," says marketing Vice President Doug Gourlay.

Both IBM and HP declined to comment. The Infinetics software can also work with hypervisors like KVM and Citrix, company officials say.

Infinetics software sounds almost too good to be true. It's designed for "unlimited" size networks without the cost or performance "penalties" of other vendors' architectures. It's intended to provide throughput that scales nearly linearly with the number of switches and servers, while supporting all traffic patterns.

It features "long hop" topology extensions designed to simultaneously minimize latency and maximize throughput for any number of nodes. It supports a unified control and management plane to allow all switches and hypervisors in a network to appear as a single autonomically managed switch; and features scriptable security policies, QoS and load balancing commands, Infinetics officials say.

And the company claims it can reduce the cost and power consumption of fabrics constructed with Cisco Nexus, Juniper EX, Arista 7500, Brocade VDX and Force10 E-series switches by more than 13x and 6x, respectively. Therein lie both the opportunity and the threat that Antonuccio alluded to.

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