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Intel Offers Industry SDN & NFV Reference Platforms

SDN and NFV are complementary networking technologies

The data center and telecom networks that clouds depend on for new revenue-generating services cost more than they bring in according to Intel.

So the chipmaker is throwing its considerable weight behind Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), which it says will bring down the cost of network acquisition and management by separating the hardware from the software.

Those capex and opex costs include reducing the size of data center and the power needed to run it. Verizon has apparently dabbled in the technology and saved 90% on the time it takes to deploy and 50%-60% on capex and opex.

Intel has three reference designs built around standard x86 servers and programmable switches that it'll be offering to OEMs to deploy and manage a virtualized networking infrastructure via SDN that it says will "radically" lower costs - mostly because they outlaw traditional proprietary devices (read Cisco) - and let data center and telecom (Intel is heavy on telecoms because of its huge $350 billion spend) deploy new - presumably profitable - services that Intel says have never been possible before in the networking infrastructure.

A lot of the cost can be erased by simplifying things, consigning manual configurations to history and transforming the present day complex network into a virtualized, programmable, standards-based architecture running commercial off-the-shelf hardware.

Besides cloud data centers and telecommunications, these reference platforms are aimed at the enterprise data center infrastructure market.

And besides its Open Network Server Platform reference design Intel's also got an Open Network Switch Platform and a Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) Accelerated Open vSwitch that are supposed to boost the efficiency and performance of data center networking.

It's got a few early ISV, OEM and service provider disciples - including Big Switch, HP, NEC, NTT Data, Quanta, Super Micro and Vyatta, the Brocade company - building on its new reference architectures. Telefónica, for instance, is going to work with NEC and Intel to build an open network.

SDN and NFV are complementary networking technologies. SND separates the control plane (which decides where the traffic gets sent) from the data plane (which is supposed to forward the traffic to the right place) so a network can be programmed and managed at larger, more dynamic scale for better traffic control across the entire data center.

NFV, which kinda depends on SDN, lets SPs virtualize and manage networking functions such as firewalls, VPN and intrusion detection services regionally as virtual applications running on a high-volume x86-based server.

VMware, the virtualization king, likes the idea and is working with Intel.

Intel's Open Network Platform (ONP) Switch Reference Design, available now, was codenamed Seacliff Trail and is based on scalable Xeon or Core chips, Intel's 6700 series Ethernet Switch and its 89xx series Communications Chipset.

It includes Wind River Open Network Software (ONS), an open and fully customizable network switching software stack using Wind River Linux that's there for key networking capabilities like advanced tunneling as well as a modular, open control plane and management interface supporting SDN standards such as OpenFlow and Open vSwitch.

Intel says common, open programming interfaces allow for automated network management, and coordination between the server switching elements and network switches for more cost-effective, secure, efficient and extensible services.

The ONP Server Reference Platform, codenamed Sunrise Trail, is based on the Xeon CPU and Intel's 82599 Ethernet Controller and its 89xx series Communications Chipset. The design enables virtual appliance workloads to run on standard Intel servers using SDN and NFV.

Wind River's 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.

The widgetry is in development now and the first alpha series won't be out until the second half of the year.

Intel says network architectures have traditionally been optimized for large packet throughput to meet the needs of enterprise end-point applications. It's working on a project to improve small packet throughput and workload performance on Open vSwitch using the Intel DPDK.

It says it is re-creating the kernel forwarding module (the data plane) to take advantage of the Intel DPDK library and it's planning to release the Intel DPDK Accelerated Open vSwitch with the ONP Server Reference Design in Q3.

Intel made a glancing reference in a webcast ahead of its reference platform announcement Wednesday at the Open Networking Summit to its joining the Open Daylight consortium, which Cisco is doing its best to dominate. Intel signed up as a Silver member.

The Open Networking Summit is meant to evangelize SDN. SDN comes from the academe and its adoption was tickled last year when Google said it was using it.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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