PLUMgrid is a Silicon Valley based SDN startup that raised $10.7 million in Series A funding in August 2012. They are still in stealth mode and even SDNCentral hasn’t covered much on them yet. However, things are brewing at this startup, which was mentioned last year in the The Economist and featured in Network World. Details are still thin, but when a company publishes five teaser blog posts in the past two weeks (they started their blog in August 2012), signs point to a larger announcement around the corner.
Their blog posts are unlikely to win a Pulitzer prize. If anything, they have enhanced their mystique by keeping things vague. PLUMgrid shuns the term Network Virtualization as it encompasses legacy technologies, such as VLANs, VRFs, and VPNs. Instead, they like to refer to Virtual Networking Infrastructure (VNI) as the means (i.e. abstraction) to provide a Virtual Network Domain, which they define as an administrative boundary established by the Data Center Operator where the VND operator can: Define, instantiate, and manage its own network needs. PLUMgrid defines SDN as networking technologies that create value in the VNI. Moreover, they wrote of consumption models in a manner that would make unicorns cry. A more concrete set of definitions would have helped.
PLUMgrid wrote of Distributed Virtual Switches:
Datacenter admins are quickly realizing that as appealing as DVS may be, Virtual Broadcast Domains (aka Distributed VLANs) are restrictive when designing proper networking solutions. To overcome the limited capabilities of DVS, multiple vendors are providing solutions pointing towards two different vectors.
I would have liked them to elaborate further on this point. How exactly do data center admins find DVS’ restrictive? Is it the lack of control plane? Is it the presence of Multicast state in the core of the network. I want to know what PLUMgrid’s solution offers that, say, Nicira’s STT doesn’t. They have refrained from describing the problems in their posts.
On point that PLUMgrid made in their blog series that caught my attention was when they wrote this of VNI:
VNI platforms should be open to a rich ecosystems of 3rd party network functions: Prevent vendor lock-in.
To me that sounds like a plug-in to OpenStack. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see PLUMgrid’s name listed as a member the new open source SDN Consortium called Daylight, which will be announced at the ONS summit in April 2013.
Edit: I listened to the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) Lippis Report Podcast this morning and PLUMgrid’s CEO, Awais Nemat, reiterated the need to define new vocabulary for SDN ecosystem, such as VNI. He said that the concept of Cloud only started making sense to people once SAAS, IAAS, and PAAS were clearly defined. Based on conversations it has held with customers, PLUMgrid has its eyes set on Consumption Models as compared to Build Models, which the rest of the industry has been focusing on (Northbound/Southbound APIs, CP/DP separation, etc).