New Intel Architectures Equip Networks for SDN

Intel (INTC) wants to help equip service providers and telcos for the new world of software defined networking (SDN). The company this week rolled out reference architectures to accelerate hardware and software development for SDN and network function virtualization (NFV).

John Rath

April 18, 2013

3 Min Read
New Intel Architectures Equip Networks for SDN



Intel wants to help equip service providers and telcos for the new world of software defined networking (SDN). Intel this week rolled out reference architectures to accelerate hardware and software development for SDN and network function virtualization (NFV).

Targeted at telecommunication providers, cloud data center and enterprise data center infrastructure market segments, the Intel reference architectures combine SDN and NFV with Intel hardware and software to improve the flexibility and economics of networks.

"SDN and NFV are critical elements of Intel's vision to transform the expensive, complex networks of today to a virtualized, programmable, standards-based architecture running commercial off-the-shelf hardware," said Rose Schooler, vice president of Intel Architecture Group and general manager of Intel's Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group. "The reference designs announced today enable a new phase in the evolution of the network and represent Intel's commitment to driving an open environment that fosters business agility and smart economics."

Designing Programmable, Externally-Managed Networks

Addressing what Intel sees as two market trends that have significant movement, SDN and NFV are complementary networking technologies that are poised to transform how networks are designed and managed across data center and telecom infrastructure environments. By separating the control and data planes, SDN allows the network to be programmed and managed externally at much larger and more dynamic scale for better traffic control across the entire data center.

NFV allows service providers to virtualize and manage networking functions such as firewalls, VPN or intrusion detection service as virtual applications running on a high-volume x86-based server. Intel said it has no intention of making network hardware itself, but has many ISVs, OEMs and service providers lined up to develop solutions, including Big Switch Networks, Chunghwa Telecom, HP, NEC, NTT Data, Quanta, Super Micro and VMware.

"We share Intel's vision of enabling the network transformation with SDN and NFV across the telecom industry," said Atsuo Kawamura, General Manager Telecom Carrier Business Unit, 1st Carrier Services Division, NEC Corporation. "We are excited to work with Intel to design with the Intel DPDK Accelerated Open vSwitch into our virtual Evolved Packet Core to deliver industry leading packet throughput and performance on Intel architecture."

Intel Technology Meets Software Stack

The Intel Open Network Platform (ONP) switch reference design builds on the codenamed Seacliff Trail project, and combines Intel processors, Intel Ethernet Switch 6700 series and Intel Communications chipset 89xx series. The ONP Switch Reference Design will include Wind River Open Network Software (ONS), an open and fully customizable network switching software stack using Wind River Linux. Common, open programming interfaces allow for automated network management, and coordination between the server switching elements and network switches enable more cost-effective and extensible services, Intel said.

The Open Network Platform Server reference design is based on the codenamed Sunrise Trail project, and includes Xeon processors, Intel 82599 Ethernet Controller, and Intel Communications chipset 89xx series. The ONP Server Reference Design enables virtual appliance workloads on standard Intel architecture servers using SDN and NFV open standards for datacenter and telecom. Wind River Open Network Software includes an Intel DPDK Accelerated Open vSwitch, fast packet acceleration and deep packet inspection capabilities, as well as support for open SDN standards such as OpenFlow, Open vSwitch and OpenStack.

"By decoupling the network from underlying hardware and enabling a new network architecture based on industry-standard x86 technology, network virtualization can transform the operational model of networking to help customers dramatically lower operational and capital expenses," said Allwyn Sequeira, vice president, Networking and Security for VMware. "VMware and Intel have built a strong relationship driving server virtualization on x86 platforms, and we are pleased to be working together to continue this transformation through network virtualization to enable the software-defined data center."

Intel is executing a project aimed at improving small packet throughput and workload performance that can be achieved on the Open vSwitch using the Intel DPDK.  Intel is specifically re-creating the kernel forwarding module (data plane) to take advantage of the Intel® DPDK library. The Intel® DPDK Accelerated Open vSwitch is planned to initially be released with the Intel® ONP Server Reference Design in the third quarter of this year.

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