P4 Player Kaloom Emerges From Stealth


By: R. Scott Raynovich

The datacenter networking market is getting more dynamic as software-defined networking (SDN) technology evolves to the next level. The latest player to enter the space is Kaloom, a startup based in Montreal with about 64 employees.

Kaloom, which announced availability of its product today, is targeting a programmable network fabric that can auto-discover, configure, and manage white-box switches with the P4 programming language, a new movement enabled by programmable networking switch chips, pioneered by Barefoot Networks.

"The whole premise of SDN was to have programmable networking elements," says Thomas Eklund, the company's VP of marketing and strategy. "SDN has not come to fruition, because of the need to introduce programmable [hardware]."

Kaloom isn't the only one using P4 or Barefoot Networks. Arista Network in June announced a line of switches equipped with Barefoot. And Cisco has also be dabbling with Barefoot as well.

Kaloom is targeting large datacenter and service-provider operations. The company was founded in 2014 by CEO Laurent Marchand. Kaloom's investors include Fonds FTQ and Somel Investments. The company has raised $10.7 million to date and expects to expand to 100 employees by year-end.

The company's pitch deck includes the usual criticisms of the networking status quote: Current networking tools lack automation and programmability, aren't scaleable, and cost too much, according to Kaloom officials. By focusing on using P4 and Tofino chips, Kaloom believes it can create high-scale, affordable networking fabris using affordable white-box switches.

The initial specs and features included in Kaloom:

  • Automated discovery of hardware
  • Autonomous leaf/spine switch management
  • Network fabric controller for topology control and fabric creation
  • Integrated virtual network functions (VNFs) including routing, switching and VxLAN
  • Integration with open-source tools OpenStack ,Open Daylight (ODL), and Kubernetes
  • NETCONF-compliant

Of course, there are many SDN and whitebox products on the market. SDN pioneers such as Big Switch Networks, Cumulus, and Pluribus Networks are all shipping SDN networking to clients and have partnership with large distributors such as Dell Technology Inc.

Kaloom's Eklund says the difference is that Kaloom is incorporating P4 to build a distributed networking infrastructure based on microservices, rather than requiring a proprietary operating system installed in the switching hardware, which is the case in nearly all the existing SDN providers. Kaloom works with a standard Linux OS distribution from Red Hat.

The initial target use cases of Kaloom's products will be building datacenter networking fabrics with leaf, spine, and edge switches, the hardware building blocks of the modern datacenter. But Kaloom is also working on a future product called the "spine of spines," which will be released later in the year, says Eklund.