Category Archives: Switches

Virtual Modular Switch (VMS): A Network Evolution Story – Part 1

Traditionally, while Ethernet networks were serving low end and non-performance driven applications, the network topology was based on an access layer with a very high port count and a very low rate of traffic generation. This drove a very high and acceptable blocking ratio and a situation where a single (or two in case of need for high availability) uplink would serve for all purposes and connect to an all mighty aggregation chassis that catered for the whole network.

While applications were continuously evolving into becoming more bandwidth hungry, latency sensitive and capacity driven, the need for a wider pipe between the access and aggregation elements in the network became the enabler for the entire evolution of the network. This in turn, drove users towards usage of more interfaces on the aggregation chassis and the network into a gridlock of price to performance ratio.

The need for a high port count of high capacity interfaces on the aggregation switch translates to a very large and complicated chassis. Now although these are available, they are traditionally a step behind the physical evolution or Ethernet technologies;  late to arrive with the proper amount of higher speeds interfaces and limiting in terms of their capability to carry the extra volume in terms of power, cooling, control tables and switching matrix. This situation can be resolved by eventually replacing the existing chassis with a newer model with the promise to be more future tolerant than its predecessor and of course accepting the additional cost spent on a huge device (or two in case of need for high availability).

VMS Part 1

An alternative to hanging your entire network from a single element is to use a fabric of smaller, simpler and more cost effective elements, in order to create a network entity with the required port count, capacity and other performance attributes. This essentially means replacing your modular switch with a Virtual Modular Switch– or how we like to call it–the VMS.

A VMS is a fat tree topology of Ethernet switches with OSPF routing used for topology discovery and ECMP used for load balancing traffic between leaf (access) elements of the VMS via spine (core) elements of it.

Stay tuned to further exploration of the pros and cons in deploying a VMS vs. deploying a modular chassis.

 ran-almog Author: Since 2011, Ran has served as Sr. Product Manager for Ethernet Products. Prior to joining Mellanox, Ran worked at Nokia Siemens Networks as a solution sales and marketing specialist for the packet networks business unit. Ran holds a BSc. In Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mellanox Delivers High Speed Interconnect Solutions for New IBM NeXtScale System

IBM recently introduced their new NeXtScale System, a flexible computing platform that provides 3X as many cores as current one-unit rack servers, making it ideal for the fastest growing workloads such as social media, analytics, technical computing and cloud delivery.

NeXtScale n1200 Enclosure
IBM NeXtScale System Chassis front fully loaded

IBM and Mellanox have worked closely to develop a platform that addresses multiple large-scale markets and solves a variety of complex research and business issues.

Through the use of ConnectX-3 FDR 56Gb/s InfiniBand and 10/40GbE adapters and SwitchX-2 FDR 56Gb/s InfiniBand and 10/40GbE switches, we can provide IBM NeXtScale customers with unrivaled interconnect performance to address the needs for:

  • Large data centers requiring efficiency, density, scale, and scalability;
  • Public, private and hybrid cloud infrastructures;
  • Data analytics applications like customer relationship management, operational optimization, risk/financial management, and new business models;
  • Internet media applications such as online gaming and video streaming;
  • High-resolution imaging for applications ranging from medicine to oil and gas exploration;
  • “Departmental” uses where a small solution can increase the speed of outcome prediction, engineering analysis, and design and modeling

Mellanox’s technology, combined with the IBM NeXtScale compute density, provides customers with sustainable competitive advantage in building scale out compute infrastructures. Customers deploying the joint Mellanox-IBM solution will receive maximum bandwidth, lower power consumption and superior application performance.





Driving Innovation with OpenEthernet

Authored by: Amir Sheffer, Sr. Product Manager

For years, data center Ethernet switching equipment has been based on closed, proprietary vendor implementation, providing very limited flexibility for the user. The progress made in open source applications and software can be leveraged in Ethernet switches to create a new generation of open, flexible and customizable solutions.  

Open Source Enables New Solutions / Trends / Technologies

Open Source Enables New Solutions / Trends / Technologies

Switches based on the OpenEthernet approach will replace traditional closed-code switches and will allow data center customization for optimized and efficient operation. The OpenEthernet switch is based on functionality developed by the equipment vendor and integration with public, open cores and tools that can be freely downloaded from the internet.

As a leader of this approach, Mellanox is investing in the integration and development of such tools, which when combined, can provide complete functionality. Examples for such tools can be OpenFlow–for flow configuration; Puppet and Chef–for switch configuration, Quagga for routing protocols, etc.

Open Ethernet

Mellanox switch software runs over Linux.  Even if the Linux kernel provides good infrastructure for the switch, it lacks functionality to connect it to the switching and routing functions. For example, a routing reflector unit is required to synchronize between the Linux kernel, the routing stack and the silicon data path. For this purpose, we are developing and opening such “reflector” units to the open community.

Another example can be the hardware driver or the software development kit (SDK) application interface (API) for the switch. By opening the API to the community, we will be the first ones to enable full flexibility and ease-of implementation to our customers and we believe other will follow.

In parallel, Mellanox is participating in industry-wide groups that are taking a similar approach.  One example can be the OpenStack community, in which Mellanox is an active member. Another example for such group can be the Open Compute Project (OCP), which is defining open and standard equipment for data centers. Mellanox already builds OCP-compatible NICs and has recently contributed the hardware design documents of the SX1024 switch system to OCP.

So far, we have briefly touched several aspects of OpenEthernet. An important feature that will be explained in the coming weeks is the hardware – software separation.

 To be continued…..