Barefoot Networks, maker of the programmable Tofino silicon for network devices, has released a new network monitoring application for Tofino switches called Deep Insight.
Deep Insight, which is built from the open source P4 programming language, lets administrators and operators monitor Tofino-based switches down to individual packets.
The goal is to provide monitoring details down to the nanosecond to help organizations spot anomalies and issues such as microbursts—instances of congestion perhaps only 100 microseconds long that may affect high-value flows such as financial transactions.
Pick A Packet
Here’s how it works. Customers can program their Tofino chips to instrument each packet as it passes through the switch, what Barefoot refers to as in-band telemetry. Customers can choose the metadata they gather, such as the switch ID, timestamp, queue delay, arrival time, matched rules, and other details.
Barefoot says this metadata is gathered at line rate.
When the packet hits the last-hop Tofino switch before the application layer, that switch packages up the metadata and sends it as a UDP packet to a collector.
The collector runs the Deep Insight software. This software analyzes and processes the data and provides graphical reporting for operators. Customers can use commodity servers as collectors. As you might expect, the more memory and CPU you buy for the servers, the more packets and metadata you can process.
As packets are sent to the Deep Insight software, it builds a baseline of normal operations, and then uses Machine Learning algorithms to identify anomalies such as dropped packets or microbursts.
Barefoot says Deep Insight should help networkers answer four key questions:
- What path did this packet take?
- What rules did this packet follow?
- How long did my packet queue at each switch?
- What other packets and flows shared this queue?
Because all the telemetry can be customized, users can choose the meta data they capture, as well as which kinds of flows they want to measure. For instance, you could limit capture to specific applications rather than every bit of traffic that goes through a switch.
Barefoot acknowledges that networkers can also get per-packet information from packet brokers, but says Tofino’s ability to provide in-band telemetry reduces the amount of infrastructure required to gather packet information.
Keep In Mind
At present, Deep Insight only works with Tofino hardware. If a packet going from Tofino switch A to Tofino switch B traverses some other network device in between, the packet’s metadata won’t be updated with metrics from the non-Tofino box.
Roberto Mari, Director of Product Management at Barefoot, says that depending on your network architecture you may be able to infer performance details when packets traverse non-Tofino boxes, but inference is all you can do at present.
The company says it’s looking to extend Deep Insight to work with OvS (the open-source virtual switch) and with smart NICs that run the P4 language, but those are works in progress.
Tofino-based white box switches are available from ODMs such as Quanta and Edge core, and Barefoot says it will announce OEM partnerships in 2018, though the company wouldn’t provide specifics.
P4 Language and Related Specifications – P4.org via GitHub
BiB 017: Barefoot Networks Introduces Deep Insight – Packet Pushers