SoftIron: Task-specific, Efficient, Scale-out Data Center Solutions

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Andrew Moloney, VP of Strategy
Without a shadow of a doubt, Open Source is the buzz de jour in the data center space with the influx of Software Defined Networking. Gone are the days when network traffic was dictated by proprietary hardware solutions running proprietary software. IDC estimates that the worldwide data center SDN market will be worth more than $12 billion by 2022. Brad Casemore, IDC research vice president, data center networks, in a recent report, named Worldwide Datacenter Software-Defined Networking Forecast, 2018–2022, concurs, "We're now at a point where SDN is better understood, where its use cases and value propositions are familiar to most datacenter network buyers and where a growing number of enterprises are finding that SDN offerings offer practical benefits." But there are some significant hurdles stakeholders need to overcome before it's all smooth sailing. The biggest one of them being the glitch in the communication between the separated hardware and software layers leading to unnecessary inefficiencies in the data flow.

SoftIron tackles that problem with a unique approach. "We build task-specific appliances, which are designed to only run one particular kind of software-defined architecture, so they're completely optimized to run them from the ground up," says Andrew Moloney, SoftIron's vice president of strategy, an industry veteran with 30 years of experience. By creating appliances for scale-out data centers, private and public cloud, and enterprise-scale facilities, SoftIron radically improves industry-standard performance on all critical metrics, including density, efficiency, capacity, speed, and heat emission. SoftIron takes the game a step further by rebelling against the contemporary norm of taking generic components or sub-assemblies, and bolting them together and dropping on software. All design, firmware, and manufacturing are done in-house in Newark, CA, under strict controls. The cherry on top: SoftIron is the ONLY manufacturer offering auditable provenance on every single appliance it supplies—giving a new meaning to the word "security". “Customers can audit for themselves right down to every line of code, a facility which is just not possible for even the largest of the technology vendors," adds Moloney.

SoftIron’s unique approach is a massive game-changer for customers who are struggling to fill racks in their data centers because they're running out of power, or who are experiencing challenges in keeping their racks cool - ending up with half-filled racks in their data centers. "In storage, we support the industry-leading open-source storage platform, Ceph. We help enterprises implement Ceph in data centers in the easiest way possible. We take the same approach in networking, with data centers leveraging an open-source architecture called SONiC," says Moloney. In optimizing SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) - an open-source network operating system originally built by Microsoft for scale-out performance networking--the company creates high performance, top of rack switches (HyperSwitch) using the same architecture.

The Question of Convenience

But, here's the question though: How convenient is it to use SoftIron's innovation which is based on open source, especially when the concept of open source comes primarily from the world of research and science? Coupled with the rapidly evolving nature of technology which invariably outpaces older skill sets, this results in a growing data center skills gap.

The team at SoftIron has an innovative solution to overcome this nagging issue. Moloney explains, "We have been able to dramatically improve the usability to the point where you don't need the same kind of skills that would otherwise be required to adopt these types of technologies." SoftIron provides customers with a unified, flexible platform that can cater to file, block, and object storage - all within the same architecture. This essentially means a client never has to use a command-line interface or have significant programming skills. The user gets a sleek and intuitive management interface that integrates the hardware and the open-source software. Because the hardware is purpose-built to optimize the software, it allows granular levels of control throughout the stack, a claim no other vendor can match.

When SoftIron designs a solution, the team starts the holistic implementation process by identifying the best in class open-source architecture, depending on the application. "Our approach is to start with the open-source software platform and effectively reverse engineer it to understand the type of demands the software makes on the hardware.


We build task-specific appliances, which are designed to only run one particular kind of software-defined architecture, so they're completely optimized to run them from the ground up


We start there and then build our own architecture to optimally support it," says Moloney.

Why you need HyperSwitch

SoftIron's networking range is called HyperSwitch™. It's one of the only Ethernet switches that is completely balanced in terms of its in and out capacity. The HyperSwitch range includes three models, optimized for hyper-scale data center performance with simplified core networking functionality, and wire-speed on all ports with performance. They are:

● HS43200 – Includes 32 x 100GbE ports
● HS34008 – Includes 40 x 25GbE and 8 x 100GbE ports
● HS24008 – Includes 40 x 10GBE and 8 x 100GbE ports.


Delivering simplicity, scalability, and performance with packet speeds of up to 1.8 terabits per second, HyperSwitch offers data center operators the ability to build lightning-fast, scale-out data centers without the compatibility issues or vendor lock-in associated with proprietary solutions. By including an AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 Processor that can be used flexibly by network operators for network security applications such as firewalls, or dedicated storage managers, and virtually any other software desired for custom networking operations, HyperSwitch units add power and extensibility. SoftIron also offers a free trial on all of its products. Uniquely in the open-source world, SoftIron serves as a one-stop-shop for software, hardware, and necessary end-to-end support.

Going Narrow and Deep

SoftIron is going from strength to strength, having raised $34 million in March of 2020 and demonstrating accelerated growth quarter over quarter. Reiterating another exciting aspect of SoftIron is that the company is entirely location independent. "We were a truly global organization from the start, with many of our staff home-based, or working in small localized teams. When COVID-19 hit, it made very little difference to our day to day operations," asserts Moloney. Having its team spread across UK, Europe, APAC, and the U.S., is an incredibly powerful differentiator for this business and a boon to many companies seeking solutions provided by SoftIron, especially with evolving data infrastructures. "We're seeing more of the data center infrastructure being pushed further out or being established outside of hyper-scale data centers. There is the emergence of edge infrastructures in regional data centers. Those data centers have to provide high performance and low latency because of the kinds of applications they now have to run," says Moloney. That being the case, SoftIron, which is continually working to evolve its offering to support its customers, stands to be the top contender to becoming the juggernaut in this space.

Company
SoftIron

Headquarters
Newark, CA

Management
Andrew Moloney, VP of Strategy

Description
SoftIron® is the world-leader in task-specific appliances for scale-out data center solutions. SoftIron eliminates vendor lock-in, siloed operations, and complexity to enable flexible, efficient, scalable, and high-performing outcomes. We do this by creating task-specific appliances that leverage leading open-source software - all of which are designed, built, and assembled transparently

SoftIron