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Barefoot Tofino chip tapped for Deep Insight network monitor

Barefoot Networks has introduced packet-based monitoring software, called Deep Insight. The new product uses data processed on switches powered by the Barefoot Tofino chip.

Barefoot Networks has introduced software that pinpoints anomalies in network traffic at the packet level. The new product, called Deep Insight, works on Ethernet switches powered by Barefoot Tofino, a programmable chip for the data center.

The software, unveiled this week, provides graphical reporting on network abnormalities, such as dropped packets and microbursts. The latter refers to traffic congestion that lasts for microseconds in a switch. Such delays are a problem, for example, in high-speed transactions performed by financial applications.

To use the software, network operators must first program each Barefoot Tofino chip to add to packets metadata that could include arrival time, matched rules, queue delay and switch identity. Engineers program the silicon using P4, an open source language that directs network devices on how to process packets.

Network managers choose the metadata each switch adds to packets as they travel to the application. The last switch collects the metadata and sends the package to Deep Insight, which runs on a commodity server.

The software establishes a baseline for network operations, so it can identify anomalies and display the details to network operators. To reduce the amount of unnecessary information, engineers choose the application traffic the software will analyze.

Deep Insight data drawn from Barefoot Tofino

The information Deep Insight provides includes the path taken by a packet, the rules it followed along the route, the amount of time it queued at each switch and the other packets with which it shared the queues.

Barefoot plans to eventually extend Deep Insight to open source virtual switches built on specifications developed by the Open vSwitch Project and network interface cards that support the P4 language. The company did not provide a timetable for the support.

Barefoot Tofino, which processes packets at 6.5 Tbps, is marketed as an alternative to fixed-function application-specific integrated circuits. Tofino appeals to large data centers, cloud and communication service providers, and white box switch makers that incorporate the technology into their product lines, analysts said. Examples of the latter include Edgecore Networks and WNC.

Barefoot plans to sell the Deep Insight software based on the number of packets processed each second. Barefoot has product trials underway with select customers and plans to make the software available in February.

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