Barefoot Networks Innovates at the Nexus of 5G and Telemetry
Ali Longwell | March 27, 2019
Barefoot Networks says that programmability and telemetry will help networks to deliver on two main promises of 5G: lower latency and delivering more bandwidth. The company makes the Tofino programmable Ethernet switches, which are programmable through the use of its P4 programming language, and also has an analytics software called Deep Insight. Barefoot considers itself a pioneer, or “inventor,” in telemetry. According to Ed Doe, Barefoot’s chief business officer, it published one of the first standards and papers on in-band network telemetry (INT) after it was proposed by the P4 Working Group as a way to instrument packets. This paper was co-authored by VMware, Intel, Arista, and Dell. But as companies prepare for future networks, more enterprises, including data center and NIC companies, are becoming invested in telemetry, namely INT. “I think in a few years you’ll see it as pretty much standard across the industry to be able to support this concept of data plane telemetry at the data plane, per-packet level,” said Doe. “Telemetry is becoming important for all networks.” “We have this programmable technology that can do a lot of different techniques. And a lot of the things we can do as well is [with] telemetry,” said Roberto Mari, the director of product management at Barefoot. “We’ve been exploring a lot of things around 5G and efforts especially around how you can accelerate 5G on a high to potent scale and how you can support new protocols in 5G.” There are three areas that Barefoot believes its product suite can help in the advent of 5G: segment routing over the IPv6 data plane (SRv6); INT; and protocols like GPRS tunneling protocol (GTP). In-band Network Telemetry: INT “fundamentally helps monitoring the application as it travels through this 5G network,” Mari explained. “It’s called in-band network telemetry because as this traffic traverses the 5G network we can instrument it with metadata so you can track what this packet is doing or how much latency was experienced. And now you can really meter and measure the SLA [service level agreements] and performance of these applications through the 5G network.” Barefoot can deliver INT through the ASIC and through SmartNICs. Mari said that Tofino fits into network switches and routers, whereas the SmartNIC fits closer to the application.