Calient, Plexxi bring SDN to large-scale data center networks

Photonic switching specialist Calient Technologies, Inc. has partnered with Plexxi Inc., to show how the two company’s products can be integrated to bring the benefits of a software-defined optical layer – namely increased flexibility, time savings, and decreased complexity – into today’s complex and highly dynamic data centers.

Optical switch specialist Calient Technologies, Inc. has partnered with Plexxi Inc., to show how the two company’s products can be integrated to bring the benefits of a software-defined optical layer – namely increased flexibility, time savings, and decreased complexity – into today’s complex and highly dynamic data centers.

Aimed at large-scale data centers, this integration employs the major principle of software-defined networking (SDN): a centralized controller operating with a network-wide view to drive forwarding behavior.

Plexxi Control is server-based software that dynamically and continuously computes connectivity options to satisfy all workload needs. Plexxi Switches provide standard high-performance, low-latency 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Ethernet access connections, but interconnect with each other via Plexxi’s high density, high capacity LightRail optical mesh network.

The integration with Calient’s S320 optical switch takes this to the next level by extending the advantage of the software-defined optical layer to large enterprises and hyper-scale cloud data centers, the company says. These networks typically experience very high bandwidth, with dynamic but persistent traffic flows, that are well supported by the cost-efficiency and virtually unlimited scalability of the 3D MEMS photonic switching that the company offers, Calient says.

By integrating these two products that are built with SDN architectures, the Plexxi/Calient combination is able to abstract the entire network and relate network capabilities back to what users actually need to accomplish. The result, the companies say, is dynamic network behavior based on real-time information, which allows applications and network analytics to determine and implement the network structure needed to make the maximum use of existing network resources.

The Plexxi Switch handles short, bursty data flows through its Ethernet-based fabric and also provides an optical multiplexing layer for intermediate-sized flows. When large persistent flows are detected, these are routed through the Calient S320, thereby freeing up the packet-based network and optical multiplexing layer. Plexxi Control detects and manages the data flows through the hybrid packet-circuit network, ultimately improving latency and flexibility.

“The hybrid data center network concept, while still new, resonates with customers who see a future that includes dramatic growth and need solutions that can help to alleviate bottlenecks,” said Daniel Tardent, vice president of marketing at CALIENT. “SDN is the ideal technology to tie together the packet and optical circuit networks. The alliance with Plexxi provides a great opportunity to showcase the very real benefits for large datacenters.”

“The ability to treat different parts of the network that used to be in silos as one giant resource reinforces our view that the network should be managed holistically,” said Mat Mathews, co-founder and VP of product management at Plexxi. “In order to do this, vendors need to have a way of exchanging information. Our integration with Calient is a step in the right direction to achieving a more holistically managed – and therefore more efficient – infrastructure.”

The integrated products will be on display in booth 1225 at OFC/NFOEC, March 19-21, 2013 in Anaheim, CA.

The Plexxi/CALIENT integration is currently in Beta release with general availability planned for Q2 2013.

For more information on optical switches and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer’s Guide.

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