Server, meet switch: a brief introduction to Pluribus Networks

When I think of what Pluribus Networks is doing, I get this image of a high performance server and switch wrapped together, with the bow on top being this extremely clever hypervisor, called Netvisor, talking directly down to the chips in the switches. These server-switches allow Pluribus to do some pretty nifty things when it comes to networking.

This slide from Alessandro Barbieri’s presentation at Networking Field Day 8 helps me visualize what they are doing in comparison to traditional switch architecture:



Network design-wise you will find that Pluribus is using the spine/leaf architecture that we are all coming to know and love. While there is no single recommended pod size, 12 to 24 racks were mentioned throughout their Network Field Day 8 presentations as the most commonly seen deployments.

These server-switches all make up a cluster – each with the same view of the network, talking to the others over TCP connections in a peer to peer fashion.  There is no centralized controller in this architecture, and each node in the cluster uses a three phase commit process to keep information synchronized with its peers. This means that either all the nodes are on board with a change, or the change just doesn’t happen. Much better than trying to rollback a change that wasn’t 100% successful across all nodes. The cluster is managed and appears as one big fabric, again a common theme that SDN is delivering on.

One of the cool things that Pluribus has focused their technology on is real time and stored analytics, the ability to “record” the network traffic and, in Pluribus’ case, this doesn’t require a separate fabric or taps. This is a pretty huge distinction considering the cost of monitoring alternatives and the time/effort that could be spent to maintain a separate monitoring fabric.

Pluribus’ technology does allow you to slice up your network into tenants and there is a strong emphasis on programmability, automation, and integration with OpenStack. Your basic “cloud in a box” – a box you will have plenty of resources to run advanced L4-7 services on.

This video from Networking Field Day 8 demonstrates just some of the analytics possible, but I’d also recommend checking out the demos from Networking Field Day 7 to see a bit more product-in-action videos.  I also really like this write up by @mrtugs – he does an excellent job further explaining the architecture and exploring the possibilities that stem from this server-switch goodness.


Published: 10/7/2014


Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.


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