When playing in the high speed switching game -- timing is everything. Timing ‘sets the pace’ for visibility to established the ‘where and when,’ correlation across a broad computing environment plus compliance and digital forensics with precision time stamps. Every element of the data center requires accurate timing at a level that leaves no room for error.
Speed is the other, more celebrated, if not obvious requirement, for the high speed switching game. Speed that is measured in increments requiring some new additions to my vocabulary.
When looking at the ways in which we measure speed and regulate time throughout the network, I was of course familiar with NTP or Network Time Protocol. NTP provides millisecond timing…which, crazy enough…is WAY TOO SLOW for this high speed market. Now being from the South, I may blink a little slower than other people but I read that the average time it takes to blink an eye…is 300 to 400 milliseconds! A millisecond is a thousandth of a second. That is considered slow?
Turns out ‘micro-second’ level detail is our next consideration. A microsecond is equal to one millionth (10−6 or 1/1,000,000) of a second. One microsecond is to one second as one second is to 11.54 days. To keep our blinking example alive: 350,000 microseconds. Still too slow.
Next unit of measure? The Nanosecond. A nanosecond is one billionth of a second. One nanosecond is to one second as one second is to 31.7 years. Time to blink is just silly at this point.
At one point in time I used to think higher speeds were attainable with higher degrees of bandwidth. This may be why the idea of ‘low latency’ seems so counter-intuitive. As you hopefully understand at this point, there are limitations to how fast data can move and that real gains in this area can only be achieved through gains in efficiency -- in other words, the elimination (as much as possible) of latency.
For ethernet, speed really is about latency. Ethernet switch latency is defined as the time it takes for a switch to forward a packet from its ingress port to its egress port. The lower the latency, the faster the device can transmit packets to its final destination. Also important within this ‘need for speed’ is avoiding packet loss. The magic is in within the balancing act: speed and accuracy that challenge our understanding of traditional physics.
Cisco’s latest entrant to the world of high speed trading brings us the Nexus 3548. A slim 48 port line rate switch with latency as low as 190 nanoseconds. It includes a Warp switch port analyzer (SPAN) feature that facilitates the efficient delivery of stock market data to financial trading servers in as littles as 50 nanoseconds and multiple other tweaks we uncover in this 1 hour deep dive into the fastest switch on the market. The first new member of the 2nd generation Nexus 3000 family. (We featured the first generation Nexus 3000 series in April 2011)
This is a great show -- it moves fast!
- Robb & Jimmy Ray with Keys to the Show
- Berna Devrim introduces us to Cisco Algo Boost and the Nexus 3548
- Will Ochandarena gives us a hardware show and tell
- Jacob Rapp walks us through a few live simulations
- Chih-Tsung, ASIC designer walks us through the custom silicon
The TechWiseTV Fundamentals series continues to enjoy a great run -- this concept of character animation and tight scripting we started with back in the early TrustSec and EnergyWise days, is still a complete joy to work on. We have learned a ton about getting the scripts tighter, writing to support visuals, how to stay technical and not try to say too much AND all the work that goes into storyboarding the visuals, working with artists and motion graphic experts. There was an element, however, we had never considered before -- in my mind perhaps because I thought it was furthest from our capability.
It was way back at Interop in Las Vegas this year where one of our PR guys, Ben Stricker, asked if I would be interested in the tour of Petco Park coming up as part of CiscoLive in San Diego. I said ‘yeah!’ for a number of hopefully obvious reasons and then volunteered to have our team shoot footage of the event. We planned and worked back and forth as the event got closer and I had been working on a storyline that focused on the amazing things that MLB Advanced Media was doing with their streaming media empire.
I pulled some workshop hosting duty trying to fill Jimmy Ray’s big orange shoes this morning. The subject is a great one -- Intrusion Prevention in the Data Center with an incredibly sharp engineer, Stijn Vanveerdeghem. Stijn is one of those crazy smart security guys down in Austin, TX as he works with a bunch of old friends from the team of IDS experts we have there.
So much emphasis on the data center these days for obvious reasons and it makes sense that anytime we consolidate something valuable -- there is going to be an increase in creativity for how to get to it when your not supposed to.
We do these workshops as part of our TechWiseTV shows for their interactivity and the difference in the depth we can achieve. A number of references were made as to other resources, shows we have done as well as published papers and studies. I have included all the links we brought up below.
Some of the best conversations happen in private exchanges and I often wish we could all benefit more broadly. This most recent conversation was instructive in and of itself but it also pointed out a level of transparency both Jimmy Ray and I prefer. So hopefully it goes to say -- we welcome your input! We certainly don’t get it right all the time!