Barefoot Networks launched in 2016 after two years of developing the most programmable and fastest (6.5Terabits/sec) switches ever built; twice as fast as the previous on record. Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments and Google led the most recent funding round of $57 million, with new strategic investors joining the round. The company has raised more than $130 million to date. Other investors include Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.
Conventional wisdom was that switch programmability came at a 10x to 100x reduction in performance. Barefoot Tofino provides the first programmable forwarding plane, and does so while setting a new performance benchmark. By enabling the network industry to define the data plane in software, Barefoot Networks takes power away from switch chip vendors and gives it back to network owners and equipment vendors.
With Barefoot, customers write programs in the open-source P4 programming language, then compile and run them on Barefoot’s Tofino switch. P4 was created by Barefoot, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Princeton and Stanford. Barefoot and the P4.org community provides a rich ecosystem of P4 applications and tools, fostering innovation around the P4 programming language. P4.org now has more than 40 members.
P4 is a protocol independent language with which P4 programs specify how a switch processes packets. P4 is based on a Match+Action forwarding model and allows the automatic generation of APIs to manage packet processing tables. P4 is suitable for describing everything from high-performance forwarding ASICs to software switches. While OpenFlow is designed for SDN networks that separate the control plane from the forwarding plane, P4 is designed to program the behavior of any switch or router, whether it’s controlled from a switch OS, or an SDN controller.
Barefoot Tofino is the world’s fastest and most programmable switch series up to 6.5Tbps. Tofino is a fully programmable Protocol Independent Switch Architecture (PISA) chip using the P4 programming language.
Barefoot Capilano is a software suite of tools for developing and programming P4 data planes for Tofino, comprised of P4 programs, compiler, debugger, simulator, IDE, SDK and switch OS integrations.
By “opening” the data plane, any network owner can add proprietary fields, new protocols, and new measurement formats, as well as support new service guarantees and SLAs. Barefoot has seen customers write programs to create new features that replace load balancers, replace firewalls, and add packet-by-packet telemetry enabling rapid debug of distributed application behavior. With the P4 protocol independent programming language, network engineers to change the way their switches process packets after they are deployed.
The replacement of middle boxes such as load balancers and firewalls has been an area of particular attention for P4 programmers as large network operators frequently deploy vast arrays of expensive middle boxes, or thousands of servers. Datacenter owners who adopt Barefoot will be able to eliminate these middle boxes by folding the functionality into their network switches for free.
Barefoot’s P4 development environment is available now. The Tofino switch series will be sampling in Q4. The open-source P4 programming language is available free from www.p4.org
Martin Izzard, Co-Founder & CEO (22 years at TI including VP Systems R&D, GM Networking ASIC & Catalog Analog businesses)
Nick McKeown, Chief Scientist & Co-Founder (Professor Computer Science, Stanford University; co-inventor of SDN; founder of Nicira, Abrizio, and Nemo)
Pat Bosshart, CTO & Co-Founder (36 years at TI, Corporate Fellow)
Dan Lenoski, VP Engineering & Co-Founder (previously SVP for Cisco’s Servers and Access Switches, VP for iPhone hardware at Apple and VP Engineering at Nuova and Growth)
Ed Doe, VP Product & Strategy (previously led networking product lines at Broadcom)
Dailene Bray, VP Finance (previously led finance at Nicira from inception through acquisition by VMware in 2012)