Xsigo – virtualising the server networking layer

hospital switchboardXsigo which was formed in 2004, produces I/O directors and its mission is to upset the enterprise networking market. The goal is to displace customer’s traditional stacks of network switches with the Xsigo virtualised server fabric. The company asserts that where server and storage layers have been widely virtualised, only vendor proprietary networking virtualisation have been launched; apart, that is, from Xsigo.

The positive implications of removing the direct link between physical and logical resources is one we at Rainmaker Files are exploring because of all the benefits customers reap. Networking as a concept obviously dramatically elevated the value of IT by connecting users and IT containers together. Despite the many flavours of networking across the layers of IT, the networking of the server layer remains significant, especially in the data centre, and this is where Xsigo concentrates its innovation.

The Xsigo I/O Directors is an appliance with set of server connectors plus Fibre Channel, Gig E, 10 Gig E connectors that makes up the server fabric. The company uses the image of north-south traffic between servers/storage, east-west across the fabric. By virtualising the cards, cables and switch ports these are physically reduced by 70% according to Xsigo. This further benefits customers because they manage the networks’ virtual entities instead of having to make any physical changes. Less physical electronics also leads to environmental savings as a consequence.

The company has 150 employees and aims its solutions at datacentres of 20 servers and upward. It is VC funded and expects to IPO sometime in the next 2 years, but is not targeting a buy-out preferring to focus on long term growth. Company growth has been given extra impetus after it briefly achieved profitability. It has enjoyed growth coming from VMware customers wanting a virtual fabric to support their setup of virtual machines. It could be argued that the company ought to latch on to server virtualisation as the main driver when promoting itself to customers. This is because Xsigo readily admits that it traditionally had two customer constituents to deal with: the server team and the network team.

Xsigo clearly aims its business potential in disrupting the traditional network vendor’s business. An interesting observation is that some customers hesitate exploring its proposition, exactly because they have invested so much money in their current network setup. It is also interesting that with the newly announced Performance Manager software, the Xsigo proposition is better aligned with VMware practices.

Image credit: J.G.Park

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