Cavium XPliant Ethernet Switch Supports Open Ecosystems

The Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) is an OCP open source initiative enabling the decoupling of switch hardware from networking software.

cavium and ethernet

Semiconductor producer Cavium announced its commitment to driving an open ecosystem for data center switching through the Open Compute Project (OCP).

The project ‘s goal is to develop the most efficient data center designs for scalable solutions by openly sharing ideas, specifications and other intellectual property.

Cavium’s XPliant team is working with both hardware and software vendors to submit OCP designs, particularly in regard to the company’s XPliant Packet Architecture (XPA)-powered switches.

The Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) is an OCP open source initiative that enables the decoupling of Ethernet switch hardware from networking software.

"OCP provides a venue for driving innovation in networking. As computer networks migrate to the 3rd platform, the legacy networking architectures must adapt as well," Eric Hayes, vice president and general manager of the switch platform group at Cavium, told eWEEK. "New problems have arisen that need to be solved. OCP provides a community of like-minded users that ability to collaborate on solving similar problems. With disaggregation, best- of -breed solutions can be combined in unique ways and these solutions can then be grown further by community members."

Using a switch supplied with ONIE, the customer can add the software of their choice. This is because the OCP specification has also defined an open application programming interface (API) and switch abstraction interface (SAI) that enables networking software to be written independent of the switch silicon used.

This allows customers and systems developers to write their software and independently pick the best switch to support it.

The XPliant switch software development kit (SDK) has full support of ONIE and has incorporated SAI, enabling customers to migrate from legacy switch architectures and adopt XPliant-powered switching solutions.

The XPliant switch features include 3.2 Tbps, 32x100G Ethernet switch, support of 25G Ethernet Consortium and the XPA architecture, which enables longer switch life-cycles and avoids fork-lift upgrades.

"The main interconnect of the data center is Ethernet. Over time, Ethernet has become the universal protocol to connect computers as well as servers," Hayes said. "Ethernet is standard- based, there are no interoperability issues like those that exist in some competing technologies and the vast deployment has continued to reduce the costs. Everything we do in life requires support from servers in the data center."

Hayes explained that Ethernet connects these servers to enable the information to get from server to the user at high speeds. Every new device a user gets and every new app a user consumes requires more servers, which require more connectivity, and Ethernet makes that connection possible, he noted.

In addition, Cavium is taking a one box, multiple products approach, where a single XPliant hardware switch is optimized for multiple places in the network through custom software.

The idea is that qualification of hardware platforms as well as standardization of software interfaces will enable both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and third-party innovation to usher in a new era in open Ethernet switching.

"Hackers will exist to exploit the weaknesses of open or closed systems," Hayes noted. "A large community of developers on an open system can collaborate in order to respond to these threats fast."