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Barefoot Networks Accelerates Network Switching ASIC with Tofino 2

Wednesday Dec 5th 2018 by Sean Michael Kerner

New P4 programmable silicon doubles the performance of its predecessor.

While x86 still largely dominates traditional server and cloud compute, the same cannot be said for network switching. Data center network switches often rely on application-specific integrated circuit (ASICS) to deliver the required performance, which is where Barefoot Networks and its Tofino ASICs fit in.

The new Tofino 2 ASIC provides up to 12.8 Tb/s of switching process power, packed into a 7nm process chip. In contrast, the original Tofino ASIC, provided 6.5 Tb/s of processing power.

In terms of port capacity that the Tofino 2 can enable, Barefoot Network stated that up to 32 ports of 400 Gigabit Ethernet (400 GbE) can be supported on a single chip. Beyond just the top end, the ASIC is flexible and and can support multiple Ethernet speeds with up to 256x10/25/50GE ports on a single chip.

The first Tofino chip became available in 2016 and has found a home in some big brand name companies. Prem Jonnalagadda, Director of Product Management, Barefoot Networks told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanetthat customers that use Tofino already include Goldman Sachs, Alibaba, Tencent, UCloud and JD Cloud.

Jonnalagadda said that in contrast to the first Tofino ASIC, Tofino 2 has more packet processing engines enabling richer features and functions.

"Tofino 2 doubles the performance while delivering more packet processing resources and does this at lower power and lower latency," Jonnalagadda said.

P4

Also of note for Tofino 2 is that it is a P4 programmable chip. P4 has been described as the "language of SDN".

P4 enables the Tofino 2 ASICs to be adjusted with customized switching and networking rule to enable an agile switching topology.

"Because Tofino 2 is fully P4-programmable, it can be deployed in many ways, from a standard top-of-rack switch to a service provider router, or even a feature-rich switch appliance," Barefoot Networks claims. "It can support enormous, unrivaled table sizes for routing, tunnels, and access control lists (ACLs)."

Looking forward, Jonnalagadda said that Barefoot Networks plans for 2019 include growing adoption of the Tofino as well as expanding complementary software applications. Jonnalagadda noted that the plan is to also increase deployments of the Barefoot Deep Insight Real-time Network Monitoring and Analytics application.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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