TFD11 Introduction Plexxi

This is a preparation blog post before I travel to Boston for Tech Field Day 11. You can find more information about Tech Field Day, the other presenters, and the other delegates here on the TFD website.

Plexxi Logo

Disclosure: TFD are paying my airfare and accommodation to attend TFD11. I’m sure there will be gifts and catering from the presenters and TFD while we’re there. Everything I write about what I learn at TFD will be my opinion and will not be reviewed by TFD or the presenters. There is also no obligation or expectation that I will write about any or all of the presenters.

Starting with the business side. I have nowhere near the business knowledge of my friends Justin Warren and Keith Townsend, but maybe the numbers will tell me something. Plexxi was founded in August 2010 and has their headquarters in Nashua New Hampshire. They have had five rounds of funding, the latest in January 2016. The amount of the latest round has not been disclosed. The previous four rounds totaled $83.4Million according to CrunchBase. The second through fourth rounds had the same investors but the latest round is from a new source. I’m going to draw a line between the new round of funding and what seems to be a change of focus for Plexxi this year. The new money seems to be enabling and driving a change in focus at Plexxi.

I was first introduced to Plexxi in a conversation with Chris Marget at VFD5 last year. At the time, Plexxi’s unique product appeared to be some very special optical networking. I wasn’t briefed by Plexxi at that time, so I may have this part a little wrong. Their custom optical LAN/WAN allowed them to program the network to fine tune physical connectivity. As I understood it they used a passive optical hub and were able to make point-to-point links over a shared optical system. There was some concern in networking circles about this new photonic interconnect. Limiting Plexxi’s ability to gain market share.

Once I signed up for TFD11 I got an email from Plexxi asking to set up a briefing. The news from Plexxi is that they are focusing on the smart network tuning software. The optical interconnect is still there. But they can bring the same smarts to white-box Ethernet switches with Broadcom chips. Now the unique selling point is a network that tunes itself to the applications it carries. The tuning is enabled by a management server which queries the application management tools. This is very different from most networking tools which rely on observed network traffic and static policies. For example, by linking to vCenter the Plexxi network controller the network is able to tune itself for VMotion and IP storage traffic before the traffic starts to flow. Plexxi describes this as a “render and fit” process. The network dynamically tunes using application information. Plexxi sees their top markets as large networks with highly variable workloads, private clouds. Their intelligence can work inside a single private cloud data center or across a distributed private cloud with multiple data centers. The other place that Plexxi has seen success is making global data networks more dynamically reactive and efficient.

I expect to hear a bit more about how Plexxi makes this network tuning work while we’re at TFD11. In particular, the types of applications that they can gain insight into and the types of optimizations they apply to the network. I’m very interested in how their methods compare to simple QoS and static bandwidth controls. I also hope to learn from other delegates how this compares to other software defined networking solutions

© 2016, Alastair. All rights reserved.

About Alastair

I am a professional geek, working in IT Infrastructure. Mostly I help to communicate and educate around the use of current technology and the direction of future technologies.
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