A week ago Plexxi’s founder and CTO, Dave Husak presented at the Boston area networking Meetup called BOSNOG. This week Plexxi celebrates our five-year founding anniversary. I was at the Meetup with the Plexxi team and during the Q&A segment a question was asked that provoked some reflection on my part. The question was “what has been the biggest barrier to adoption for Plexxi?” A simple question, but the answer is not so simple.
The biggest barrier to Plexxi has been the ingrained acceptance of networking complexity and singular design to all networking requirements. Over the past five years, many companies brought to market solutions that added to this complexity with little if any underlying changes to the traditional network architecture. The past five years in networking has been witness to a multitude of technical attempts to change networking through the façade of automation, but none have tried to make it simpler and better. During these five years entire product lines from our competitors have achieved full cradle to end-of-life cycle in an attempt to “…harness the intelligent network through programmability and abstraction across multiple layers, offering a choice of protocols, industry standards, and usage-based deployment models” with the goal to “…help realize business objectives such as: increased service velocity, resource optimization, and faster monetization of new services.” At Plexxi we call this networking in the Protocol Era wherein the workflow is focused on devices and constrained by wires and the protocols. The result is that network engineers work at the device level using complex protocols and it forces a need to go through speeds and feeds upgrade cycles every few years.
At Plexxi we want to build a simpler network. We want to elevate the perspective from devices to systems. Networking in the Modern Era is done at the system level – not at the device level. In the Modern Era, network engineers design systems that have linkage to the logic of the business goals.
Plexxi is focused on the basics: great products, less complexity, a higher level of abstraction and a network that is not about speeds, feeds, buffers, protocols and layers. At Plexxi we are trying to simplify the consumption and deployment of network infrastructure. For example, our first three hardware switch platforms were Plexxi designs, but our last three hardware switch platforms (one is still unannounced) are by other companies and one of those companies is technically a competitor in the design of networks for the Protocol Era. We have the ability to repurpose a Protocol Era hardware design with a Plexxi OS that enables it to be part of a Modern Era using Plexxi Control and Plexxi Connect.
Our product development focus is not about bigger buffers, but rather about better integration and control to make switches operate as a system. Our solution is not about boxes; it is about the properties and quality of the system experience. It is about the network abstraction.
The answer to the question posed in the Meetup is the mindset of the infrastructure builder. What started in 2014 as a few has now grown into a group that is composed of people who are looking to build infrastructure differently. This group is evolving into a movement. We call that person and group a Cloud Builder. Just this week we received an inquiry from an end-user that I had personally called on several times in 2013-2014, but had walked away from because I felt their adoption cycle was too long for a small company like Plexxi. Then call I got from them this week that started with “we are just finishing our core network upgrade” and we want to “start a pilot for a converged cloud infrastructure that will act like a system and allow us to define the application workloads by time and day.” That is Plexxi’s customer. The customer who is just looking to upgrade some infrastructure for better speeds, feeds and buffers is not really our customer. We want to engineer networks for your systems, to satisfy your goals using your choice of tools. We want to build networks in the Modern Era, for the Cloud Builder generation.