SAN JOSE, Calif. — Network infrastructure needs to get radically simpler and focus on delivering application-layer performance, said the chief technology officer of one of the sector's most watched and still-secretive startups.
Tom Edsall of Insieme Networks, a startup spun off from Cisco Systems last year, laid out his design principles at a keynote at Hot Interconnects here. However, he would not discuss the details of his company's still-unannounced designs.
Most datacenters could operate on a relatively flat two-tier mesh of generally smaller switches than those currently in use, running a smaller set of still-emerging protocols and APIs, he said. Such a multipath fat tree or clos topology would reduce "today's network chokepoints -- we have to borrow from the world of compute and use a scale-out not scale-up model."
Today switches and routers are measured by their bandwidth, throughput, and feature sets. Engineers need to rethink the designs, measuring them first and foremost on their performance on network applications, Edsall said. This new perspective may imply throwing out current ideas about supporting fairness and quality of service in network flows, but each app has different requirements, and systems need to serve them flexibly.
Insieme's Tom Edsall spoke to about 200 engineers at Hot Interconnects.
These systems will also need updated debugging techniques suited to their multipath topologies. "We need at least a multipath-aware trace route and a ping that looks at all available instances" -- two of today's most popular debug techniques.
Edsall's keynote was followed closely by about 200 attendees at the Hot Interconnects event hosted at the Cisco campus here. The serial entrepreneur was a founder of Crescendo Communications, an Ethernet switching company that Cisco acquired, and Andiamo Systems, a storage networking group that Cisco incubated. His latest startup, Insieme, is seen as a big part of Cisco's answer to the potential disruptions posed by software-defined networking and the OpenFlow protocol born of work at Stanford.
Before Inseime's founding, he spent time as a visiting lecturer at Stanford. "The questions posed by the Open Networking Foundation have rocked the industry, but it takes a long time to introduce new technologies," he said.
Insieme representatives said in June that their systems would include both ASICs and merchant chips delivering security and network services to applications. They also said the systems would use new 100Gbit/s optical transceivers that use 10G cables.