400Gb Open Ethernet Switch from Mellanox

By Doug Black

July 6, 2017

Mellanox (NASDAQ: MLNX) today announced Spectrum-2, billed by the interconnect company as the most scalable 200 and 400GB/second Open Ethernet switch, offering 10X scalability while reducing datacenter OPEX via 1.3 times better power efficiency.

Spectrum-2 provides Ethernet connectivity for up to 16 ports of 400GbE, 32 ports of 200GbE, 64 ports of 100GbE and 128 ports of 50GbE and 25GbE, and enables, according to Mellanox, port density designed to build switch platforms for cloud, hyperscale, enterprise datacenter, big data, artificial intelligence, financial and storage, among other applications.

Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox, told HPCwire last week that while the company has already announced adapter and cabling products for 200GB/sec Open Ethernet performance, Spectrum-2 fulfills the third required “missing element” for an end-to-end solution, the switch. He said the new product is an important piece in Mellanox’s support for Open Ethernet, which Shainer described as an open standard “approach that enables customers to choose their switch vendors and software vendors irrespective of one another.”

Spectrum-2 includes a flexible parser and packet modifier, which can be programmed to process upcoming types of protocols, “thereby future proofing the datacenter,” the company said.

“Data Center customers are looking to significantly increase the Ethernet switch bandwidth in their networks while simultaneously raising the levels of programmability and visibility,” said Seamus Crehan, president of analyst firm Crehan Research. “The Spectrum-2 switch from Mellanox not only addresses these needs, but does so with a cost-effective Open Ethernet solution.”

Mellanox said Spectrum-2 is the first 400G and 200G Ethernet switch that provides adaptive routing and load balancing combined that is backed, the company said, by guarantees for zero packet loss and port performance. “The solution also doubles data capacity while providing the lowest latency (300 nanoseconds), 1.4 times lower than alternative offerings,” Mellanox said in its prepared announcement.”

“Enterprise adoption of off-premises cloud services in conjunction with adoption of data driven computation using AI techniques and machine learning (Ml) are some of the key drivers for 200GE and 400GE networking in the data center,” said Cliff Grossner, research director and advisor, Data Center Research Practice at UK-based IHS Markit. “In addition to speed, the rapid pace of innovation in cloud service provider datacenters demands a programmable network where new protocols can be introduced without changing switch hardware.”

Grossner said a recent IHS Markit study showed that off-premises cloud service revenue is expected to reach $343 billion in 2021, up from $126 billion in 2016, driving the need for high speed and power efficient programmable networking.

Spectrum-2 extends the capabilities of the first generation of Spectrum, which Mellanox said has been deployed in thousands of datacenters. Spectrum supports 10G infrastructures and higher while enabling migration to 25G, 50G and 100G speeds. Spectrum-2 maintains the same API as Spectrum, according to the company, for porting software onto the ASIC via the Open SDK/SAI API or Linux upstream driver (Switchdev), and supports standard network operating systems and interfaces, including Cumulus Linux, SONIC, standard Linux distributions and more.

Spectrum-2 also supports an extensive set of telemetry capabilities, including in-band network telemetry standard, for network monitoring and diagnostics visibility.

“In the world of networking, capacity is king, and Mellanox does it again with Spectrum-2, pushing the limits on port speeds, densities, packet buffer size, and functionality,” said J.R. Rivers, co-founder and CTO of Cumulus Networks. “Our customers are on the forefront of applying web-scale principles in their datacenters, and Spectrum-2 enables our customers to build high performance networks that leverage programmability capabilities and leading edge telemetry-based fabric validation.”

Mellanox said Spectrum-2 SDK is available now for early-access. The Spectrum-2 switch ASIC is expected to be available later this year.

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