Secretive Israeli startup Xsight Labs finally announced what it is doing – it’s trying to elbow its way into the crowded data center switch market – with a part that reaches 25.6 terabits per second with a 100G SerDes. The company believes it draws less power than rival switches, enough less that it will be much cheaper in the long run, when taking operational costs into account.
There’s more that’s new with this thing, but there’s only so much that will fit into one paragraph.
The data center market already had an insatiable need for greater speed at less power and less cost, but with millions and millions more people working, learning, and playing at home than ever expected before the pandemic lockdown, those needs have only become more acute.
The industry’s technology roadmap has long predicted that 25.6 Tbps switches for data centers would show up right about now, and so they have. Over the past 12 months or so, several companies have announced such products. Broadcom has its Tomahawk 4, and Innovium its TeraLynx 8. Rockley Photonics earlier this year said it was working on one (with partners Accton, Molex, and TE Connectivity), and Intel has been talking about a Barefoot Tofino at 25.6 Tbps for a while (hold that thought).
Xsight is certain it has the jump on its competitors, however, given that its chip, called the X1, is now sampling, and that it is the first switch at 25.6 Tbps that also has the 100G SerDes.
The 25.6 Tbps X1 operates at less than 300W, and the 12.8 Tbps X1 at 200W. Rajagopal Krishnaswamy, Xsight’s vice president marketing and business development, told EE Times that the company could find no public documents from any competitor claiming to operate at anything less than 350W at 25.6 Tbps.
That 50W difference could be huge. Multiplied across the large number of switches commonly deployed in a data center, the long-term power savings would be significant, Krishnaswamy pointed out.
The low power “also allows us to double the density,” Xsight co-founder & CEO Guy Koren said. If the part had been more power hungry, the company would have been compelled to build the X1 in a two rack unit (2RU) box, he explained.
“We can do it in 1RU,” Koren said. “That brings a lot of advantages. It implies you can still use copper. When you go to 2RU, you have longer distances to go and you can’t use copper anymore.”
Copper is cheap; fiber is expensive.
Xsight designed the X1 from the ground up; it is based on what the company says is an entirely new architecture. One of the differentiating features is that it has a fully shared buffer. Koren explained that competing switches typically segment the buffer. With the X1, “any port has full access to the full buffer.” This enables wire speed in-cast performance for worst-case microburst absorption, the company said.
Another differentiator is that the X1 provides telemetry not just at the system level, but from the silicon itself. That should be valuable, the Xsight execs explained, in that it provides visibility into the network for monitoring, troubleshooting and real-time analysis. In short, it should help data center operators minimize downtime.
When asked if competitors have the feature, Koren said, “I assume they don’t have it. This is coming from our silicon operation.”
Xsight said its X1 is accompanied by a software development kit also designed from the ground up to incorporate multi-layer APIs. The SDK comes with a set of reference applications and is compatible with OCP SAI and SONiC network operating system (NOS).
The company said it is making X1 silicon, evaluation platforms, and SDK available to qualified alpha customers. Koren and Krishnaswamy declined to say if they had any customers, let alone identifying who they might be.
XSight Labs was founded in 2017 by Koren. Erez Sheizaf, and Gal Malach. Back in 2016, all three were working at EZChip when EZChip was acquired by Mellanox for $811 million. All three left Mellanox after the acquisition to start Xsight Labs. At Xsight, Koren is CEO, Erez Sheizaf is vice president of research and development, and Gal Malach is CTO.
Nvidia, by the way, subsequently bought Mellanox, in 2019 (that deal closed earlier this year).
Intel already owns Barefoot. Intel’s investment arm Intel Capital has been a lead investor in funding for Xsight, which has raised a total of $100 million, according to Crunchbase, which tracks venture funding.
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