As time progresses, more and more innovative products are needed. The best example of the innovation at hand these days is the Intel®Tofino™ ASIC. With massive bandwidth and an increase in data availability, Intel®Tofino™ is just the thing you need. After all, who doesn't want flexibility and reliability in the DC Infrastructure?

Why don't you take a deeper dive into the Intel®Tofino™ technology? Here's everything you need to know!

Whitebox Switches: Fixed vs Programmable ASICS

ASICs are specifically designed for the special transmission of any kind of network traffic. Nowadays, two variants of ASICs are available; fixed and programmable, providing you with a number of options and possibilities.

The main difference between the two ASIC options is flexibility and adaptation. The fixed ASIC switch is the traditional approach which comes with a pre-defined data plane function structure and has a limited ability to manipulate the packet processing.

But what about the programmable ASIC switch? Are they the ones who can adapt to your needs by providing the flexibility required to establish your own or application-specific parameters? Definitely.

Programmable ASICs are the ones that offer methods to define the data plane functionality in a flexible way, using open source programming languages such as P4. This customizable pipeline or packet processing engine can be programmed according to your requirements. You can program the processing in innovative ways to make it compatible with any standard or non-standard Ethernet type. Furthermore, you benefit in getting the ability to build protocol specific extensions without the need to replace the switch ASIC by a new generation, as you would need to do it with a fixed function ASIC approach.

What is Intel®Tofino™ ASIC? Is it programmable?

What do programmable switches have to do with Intel®Tofino™ ? You will find that out in just a minute or two!

If you talk about Intel®Tofino™, it is a programmable switch ASIC that is based on a model called PISA (protocol-independent switch architecture) and allows you various opportunities that are otherwise not possible with fixed pipeline-based switches. At the same time, they provide you with full-fledged performance with your device so that it can reach its full potential.

Intel®Tofino™ provides you with bandwidth up to 400GbE speed per port today with a roadmap exceeding the current level by multiple factors. Diving into it deeper, it's important to understand that Intel®Tofino™ is programmable via the Open Source Programming Language called P4. This language was designed to program any kind of network device (switches, NICs, routers, etc.) and gives you the ability to control how packets are processed through your device.

Last but surely not least, to give you an interesting example, you are capable of defining your own process to identify bottlenecks within your network and tune it in an automatic AI fashion. You can also export flow-specific metadata information to external apps to in-depth analyze specific things.

Intel®Tofino™ – How It Started?

When you have a breakthrough technology such as Intel®Tofino™, you often wonder who were the genius people creating such an innovation. This revolutionary fabric processor was created and proposed by Barefoot Networks in 2013 under the co-founder's Nick McKeown, Martin Izzard, Pat Bosshart, and Stefanos Sidiropoulos. At that time, the ASIC was already running at up to 6.5 Tbit/s. After its massive success, it was purchased by none other than Intel® in 2019, where it got even more recognition, and this is what that technology deserves.

Data Center of the Future with Intel®Tofino™

Different organizations and different people propose a variety of structures for the data centers of the future. It is surely a topic worthy of debate, and each brings forward the framework that suits best for him.

However, according to Intel®, the data center of the future will be derived from Intel®Tofino™ and P4. They believe that the data center of the future will be many times more efficient and beneficial than they are now.

It can be explained by measuring the needs for the future. Present-day data centers are complicated, mixed up, have security issues, and have no way of creating an application-optimized forwarding with AI methods. All these complications will be solved by Intel®Tofino™'s ability to be programmed. Let's discuss a scenario in which you are using a fixed switch. You used it for VXLAN, but now you want IPL routing or MPLS. You cannot use a fixed switch as it does not come with much flexibility. But on the other hand, if you deploy a programmable switch, you can program each stage in different ways.

Intel®Tofino™ Generations

If you believe that Intel®Tofino™ has only one generation, you need to think again! Does innovation stop updating if it's successful? A big no!

Before Intel®Tofino™ was handed over to the Intel® group, it had already proposed the other generations of Intel, namely Intel®Tofino™ 1, Intel®Tofino™ 2 and Intel®Tofino™ 3. The third generation is soon to be published and launched in 2022.

Intel®Tofino™ 1 vs. Intel®Tofino™ 2 vs. Intel®Tofino™ 3

As for the three generations of Intel®Tofino™, it is understandable that they will have different strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, they have different purposes and usability. The speed of the Intel®Tofino™ Generations is 25 Gbps, 56 Gbps, and 112 Gbps, respectively.

Intel®Tofino™ 1 supported only up to 100 Gb of port speed. But as for the other two generations, they can offer up to 400 Gb and level 2 schedulers. The only significant differences between the second and third-generation Intel®Tofino™ is the increase of resources, improved number of pipelines and a throughput bandwidth of 25.6 Tb.

Advantages of Intel®Tofino™

The advantages and uses of Intel®Tofino™ are immaculate. It´s hard to list all benefits the product can provide. However, some of the main benefits are worth highlighting. Real time in-band telemetry becomes a lot easier with the help of Intel®Tofino™. Adding metadata information to the packet processing creates a lot of options to monitor the network in-depth. Thus, opening many gates for more research.

One of the crucial parts of data centers is the load balancers. They are used in almost every data center, and they regulate the traffic that comes into data centers. However, Intel®Tofino™ can exclude the need for load balancers from the data centers altogether by acting as load balancers themselves.

The greatest benefit of Intel®Tofino™ ASIC switches is that they open the gates for many other opportunities. It acts as a platform for many other options and applications. Moreover, they are designed in a way that they require less power and space, making them the perfect switches to deploy. It can be safely said that Intel®Tofino™ has great potential to evolve in the future and provide endless possibilities with a little more effort and time.

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to drop us a message. We'll be sure to contact you as soon as we can! After all, your contentment is our greatest responsibility.

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We are happy to announce that we have the Edgecore 400GbE Tofino2 switch DCS810 (AS9516-32D) in stock, ready to be shipped at any time!

This P4 Programmable switch is an ultimate tool for everyone, who wants to take full control of the network stack, including but not limited to the processing of all packets as per your own definition.

  • Protocol-independent switch architecture (PISA) with a P4 Programmable Quad Pipeline design (20 Stages)
  • Switching Capacity of 12.8Tbit in 32 x 400Gbit QSFP-DD Ports
  • Multi-rate support through breakout (4 x 100G, 8 x 50G, 16 x 25G as well as 40G and 10G)
  • Compile your P4 applications faster with a Intel D-1517 CPU providing higher bandwidth between the Data Plane and Control Plane
What can I do with it and where does it fit?
  • Machine and Deep learning network fabrics
  • Create own logic in switching and routing (aggregation, balancing, …)
  • Advanced monitoring INT (In-band Network telemetry) of line-rate traffic, latency, errors and mission critical data streams
  • Build mechanism to secure your network and prevent attacks (DDoS etc.)
  • 5G and 6G architectures

Those are just a few examples of a very flexible and programmable switch platform. You can also pair the system with an existing NOS providing L2 switching and L3 routing services and run it in your Datacenter, leaving the future option to implement your own packet processing applications.

If you want us to allocate any of the stocked DCS810 switches to current or near future projects, then please feel free to reach out to us.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Additional STORDIS Services & Products

As a part of our commitment, we recently started out “SwitchON P4” service. It is designed to guide you through the initial set-up and bring the system into a state, to run own P4 applications. Whatever you are trying to achieve, we are keen to help and support you in getting there.

We also would like to mention the availability of the CREDO HiWire SHIFT AEC, 400G QSFP-DD to 4x 100G QSFP28 Active Electrical Cable, which is the perfect accessory to break out those 400G QSFP-DD ports into 4x100G QSFP28 ports, to connect your switches.

STORDIS is proud to announce its newest webinar, live on July 7th. During this webinar, we will be discussing how to lower the cost and increase security of supply for Wi-Fi deployments using TIP OpenWiFi.

NetExperience, in partnership with Telecom Infra Project offers the first end-to-end WLAN software and service compatible with Open Wi-Fi.

The event is scheduled to take place on July 7, at 3:00 PM CEST.

Go to our webinar information page below to get more information on the event and to register for the free event.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Want to Learn More About it?

Get in touch with us and we will answer all of your questions.

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