Definition

Plexxi

Plexxi is a company based in Cambridge Massachusetts that makes datacenter software-defined networking (SDN) products. The company, whose management team is composed of networking professionals, was founded with venture capital funding in 2011. Plexxi's technologies include an SDN controller, an SDN switch and open APIs.

Plexxi's approach is something they call "affinity networking," which is essentially facilitating communications between network entities that need to work together. Plexxi defines an affinity network as "... a collection of resources—like instances of an application workload or members of a virtual network—that have a relationship to each other."

Plexxi's SDN technologies technology use wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM ) within a data center to enable applications to demand the network resources they need, all the way down the physical layer of the network. Using WDM between switches makes it possible to dynamically allocate bandwidth between Plexxi's top-of-rack switches using different spectrums of light. The Plexxi SDN architecture splits the control plane between the individual switches and a central controller, and it includes a sophisticated northbound interface that presents a network abstraction for orchestration systems and applications.

A brief look at Plexxi's technologies: 

  • Plexxi Control, a tiered SDN controller, performs tasks that don't require real-time computation in the data path, such as planning and optimization. Each Plexxi switch has its own control element that performs distributed processing for real-time forwarding. The distributed control element also offers scalability and resiliency. 
  • Plexxi Switch 1, the physical layer of the product, is a top-of-rack switch with 32x10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports and 4x40 GbE ports. Its fixed form factor is very similar to conventional top-of-rack devices, except for two optical interconnect ports that run Plexxi's WDM technology to form a fiber ring that dynamically allocates bandwidth. 
  • Affinity Networking APIs provide abstractions of the network northbound to orchestration systems like OpenStack Quantum. Plexxi is offering two initial APIs. Workload Affinity API enables external systems, analytical engines and network overlays to communicate with Plexxi Control. The Network Orchestration API will allow Plexxi Control to take information from workload requirements and convert it into instructions on how the network can satisfy them.

In February 2013, Plexxi and Boundary, a provider of application performance management (APM) software, announced software-defined network products.

Related glossary terms: Big Switch Networks, Nicira Inc., Embrane
Contributor(s): Shamus McGillicuddy
This was last updated in March 2013
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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