Barefoot Networks raises $130M, builds P4-enabled platform to address carrier, enterprise SDN migrations

Barefoot Networks, an emerging SDN vendor, emerged out of stealth mode with over $130 million in funding to speed the vendor's market entry.

Leading the investment were Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments and Google. Other participating investors included four industry-leading strategic investors, as well as Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.

Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments and Google Inc. led the most recent round of $57 million, with new strategic investors joining the round.

The company, which was co-founded by chief scientist Nick McKeown – the former Nicira co-founder and Stanford professor – has built a series of SDN solutions that combine the P4 open-source programming language with a programmable switch chip.

At the heart of Barefoot's value proposition is its Tofino switch chip, which can process packets at 6.5 terabits per second (Tbps). Besides maintaining record-breaking speeds, the Tofino switch chip is also fully programmable, allowing network owners to specify the behavior of the packet processing devices in their network – down to the packets flowing on the wire.

"If you think of today's switching engine, it only operates at like 3 terabits," said Ed Doe, VP of product management and marketing for Barefoot, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Our new devices, which we call Tofino, are actually now offering 6.5 terabits so we're doubling what the state of the art is today and doing it on a programmable basis and not on a fixed function way as well as doing it with equal or better power and price efficiency."

This programmability allows network owners and their system vendors to determine how packets are processed. By eliminating fixed- function switch chips, Barefoot's Tofino empowers software developers to program their network in much the same way they program a computer.

Customers can use the Barefoot platforms to write programs in the open-source P4 programming language, then compile and run them on Barefoot's Tofino switch.

Doe said the emergence of P4 is similar to graphics processors for traditional computer screens.

"The analogy we equate this to what happened with graphics processors," Doe said. "Graphics processors went through a similar transition 15 years ago where they used to be very fixed to where these GPUs can render just about anything, and that's because they all became programmable."

Barefoot is targeting three main domains: Mega data center operators, enterprises and traditional telcos.

The vendor's P4 development environment is available today from Barefoot Networks at www.barefootnetworks.com, while it will start sampling its Tofino switch series in the fourth quarter this year.

For more:
- see the release

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