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Pica8 open switching OS supports 25/50/100 GbE

Pica8 introduces open switching OS for 25/50/100 GbE. The use of higher throughput switching is growing in mega data centers.

Pica8, which makes a network operating system for white box switches, is the latest vendor in the switching market to support 25/50/100 GbE.

Pica8 announced this week that the most recent version of its PicOS open switching OS would support the throughput levels gaining traction in the mega data centers of the major financial institutions and cloud service providers. The upgrade, PicOS 2.7.1, is available on open switches from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Edgecore Networks and Inventec.

Makers of switch hardware and operating systems are scrambling to support 25/50/100 GbE, which is poised to replace its 10/40/100 GbE cousin in hyper-scale data centers. Those facilities often have tens of thousands -- and sometimes hundreds of thousands -- of servers.

The massive data centers are switching to the higher throughput because it is more power efficient. Data center operators will use 25 GbE on top-of-rack switches and 100 GbE on spine devices.

Manufacturers are expected to sell more of the faster switches. By 2018, the number of 25/50/100 GbE port shipments is expected to soar from 10,000 last year to 12 million, according to San Francisco-based Crehan Research Inc.

Broadcom Tomahawk chips behind faster open switching OS

What has made products like Pica8's latest open switching OS possible are the Broadcom Tomahawk and Cavium XPliant ASICs. Pica8's latest NOS supports the Broadcom chip. The vendor plans to add XPliant support in a few weeks, according to Calvin Chai, the head of product marketing at Pica8.

HPE's open Altoline switches run Broadcom's ASIC, but not Cavium's. Inventec and Edgecore make switches powered by either ASIC.

Pica8 is joining proprietary NOS vendors Arista Networks Inc. and Cisco, which have supported 25/50/100 GbE in their switches for months. Dell, which competes with HPE, also sells the higher throughput switches.

"Every switching company in the world, whether it's a hardware-centric player like Cisco or one of these bare-metal companies, is rolling out 25/50 Gb support on Broadcom," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.

Makers of open switches, which are also called bare-metal switches, let companies choose an open switching OS. For example, HPE's Altoline switches are available with a Cumulus Networks or Pica8 NOS. HPE provides hardware and software support on the devices.

Pica8 also added to PicOS 2.7.1 a set of features for better management of traffic flows. Called AdvanceFlow, the features make it possible to create larger switching fabrics within a software-defined networking architecture.

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