Blending the Network; Pluribus ServerSwitch

I firmly believe that blending disciplines is the way of the future in IT. I’ve rambled about it here at other venues and I’m vocal (some would probably say brash) about it on the twitters.  Be it Networking and System, Systems and Security, Programming and Networking, most of us that have been around any length of time already do it but now it’s happening out in the open and “DevOps“, a form of the hybrid IT worker, has seemingly become the BOTD (Buzzword of the day).

With “hybrid” in mind, it was very apt that Pluribus Networks presented an intriguing spin on “hybrid” from the hardware point of view at Network Field Day 7.  Remember the days or routers or switches? Sure you do. Then along came the L3 Switch and shook everything up.  Now you could do both on the same box simplifying OPEX and potentially CAPEX as well as maintenance fees. It became possible to simplify the architecture and even to to collapse it if so desired.  I certainly did not expect to see anything like that in Pluribus.  In fact, to be honest, I really was not sure what to expect.


What pluribus brings is merchant based hardware but it has a spin that I  didn’t see coming.  A pretty innovative one, too. What others began by creating flexible, programmable and highly resilient OSs and/or feature rich hardware without big name fuss (and prices to accompany said fuss), Pluribus has evolved one step further, added some serious steroids to the hardware and infused very flexible OS with many management vectors (CLI, API, GUI and even good ‘ol UNIX commands). 

800px-1968_El_Camino Like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, Pluribus has blended two things that seem to work well together: a powerful server platform for processing and potentially acting on massive amounts of data and a merchant based silicon switch with a good number of fast interfaces.  It’s a software driven hardware solution.  A host router, but so much more.  I’ve long thought that host based routing and switching was a powerful tool, having worked on several open source platforms that do just that.  However, the issues that inevitably came up were a lack of commercial hardware and software support, a structured, well defined market or the risk of the fracture of a community based product.  This provides answers to all of those concerns and offers a unique product to boot.


That’s the word that jumps into my brain when I try to categorize this nifty hybrid.  It’s a server, no it’s a switch no it’s a server …It’s like an El Camino (or Ford Ranchero, depending on your persuasion), “Is it a car? Is it a Truck?” “Yes.” Pluribus presents some interesting questions about how we can blend the network and systems into a more flexible platform with their server switch platform, creating an infrastructure fabric as opposed to a “series of tubes” that “servers” connect to.  Their software suite is quite robust, too.  Anything from NAS to CDN, NAT to L3.  Oh, and they can run VMs, too.  I’m thinking a Bro IDS node, a blackhole router and a perfsonar node running right in the network fabric.  Very thought provoking stuff.

I like to see ideas, products and people that lay it all out there and try to transform, to evoke thoughts and try to foster change.  This does that.  You can check out the videos from NFD7 here.  I dare you to tell me you can not think of a use for something like this.

El Camino Image Reference via WikiPedia

Freedom Line image source Pluribus Networks


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Copyright 2016 Nick Buraglio, ForwardingPlane, LLC

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