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Plexxi aims low-latency switch at emerging workloads

Plexxi launched a low-latency switch that's suitable for high-frequency financial trading. The Switch 2 Series is also aimed at analytics applications and cloud data centers.

Plexxi Inc., this week introduced a switch line that reduces latency in time-sensitive applications and supports a software-centric approach to networking similar to Cisco's.

Plexxi's Switch 2 Series lowers latency to an acceptable level for high-frequency financial trading. Other networking applications include the infrastructure for Hadoop server clusters, which is designed for storing and analyzing huge amounts of unstructured data. The switch could also be useful in speeding up the data flow between the data centers of enterprises or cloud service providers.

"Plexxi is targeting new types of workloads rather than aiming for rip-and-replace displacement of established networks supporting legacy workloads," said Brad Casemore, analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

The Switch 2 Series creates a network topology that consolidates a two-tier leaf-spine architecture into one tier. The all-in-one Plexxi low-latency switch eliminates meshing server-connected leaf switches with high-throughput, layer 3 spine switches. Plexxi's approach can reduce latency from 550 nanoseconds to 50 nanoseconds, according to the company.

The Plexxi control plane

Plexxi has built a control plane that tells its switches where to forward traffic based on data and application workloads. The technology is proprietary and does not use OpenDaylight, an emerging industry standard for controllers.

"Their differentiation comes in the form of how the Plexxi fabric can dynamically allocate bandwidth, as application and workload requirements change," said Andrew Lerner, analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

The vendor's approach to combining hardware and software for networking "can be seen as similar, in many respects, to Cisco's ACI [application-centric infrastructure]," Casemore said. Like Cisco, Plexxi competes with Juniper Networks Inc., and Arista Networks Inc. The latter provides a single-tier network topology through its Spline switches.

 Founded in 2010, Plexxi's tallest hurdle as a relatively young tech supplier will be convincing risk-averse mainstream networking buyers to try its technology over established rivals, Lerner said. "The key for Plexxi is to find compelling and repeatable use cases that provide clear value and differentiation above and beyond traditional incumbents."

The Switch 2 Series, which is built on Broadcom's Trident II chip, has three types of switches. The Entry Series has 48 access ports and six QSFP high-density fiber connectors. The Performance Series has 72 access ports, four Flexx ports and two LightRail optical fabric interconnect ports. Both switches have a capacity of 240 Gbps).

The Performance Plus Series has 48 access ports, 28 Flexx ports and four LightRail ports. The capacity is 480 Gbps.

Pricing for the Switch 2 starts at $25,000, excluding software and integration licenses.

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