Intel Launches SDN Switch and Server Platforms

By Sean Michael Kerner | Apr 17, 2013 | Print this Page
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The Software Defined Networking (SDN) revolution isn't just about software. It also requires silicon on which software and networking can run. Today at the Open Networking Summit, Intel formally announced its strategic direction and product plans for enabling the SDN revolution.

In a media briefing, Rose Schooler, vice president of Intel's Architecture Group and general manager of Intel's Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group, explained that Intel aims to help CIOs accelerate new service deployments within networks.

Schooler noted that today's networks are populated with a large variety of proprietary hardware appliances, which can potentially hinder rapid service deployment. This is where SDN comes into focus. SDN separates the control plane from the data plane, two items that have historically been bound together and provided by proprietary hardware.

The move to SDN is all about virtualization, which Intel knows well.

"Within server infrastructure, we have already achieved greater than seventy-five percent of workload virtualization within the IT domain," Schooler said. "So we have a strong history of how to manage that transition."

SDN Reference Architecture

To support SDN, Intel announced a pair of reference architectures. One is for switches, the other for servers.

The Open Network Platform Switch Reference Design was under development at Intel under the codename Intel SDNSeacliff Trail. Running on top of the switch will be Intel's Open Network Platform SDN software, built from Intel's Wind River Linux operating system.

The software supports OpenFlow and includes the open vSwitch virtual switch capability.

"It will be able to run apps like load balancing, firewall, and the switching capability itself," Schooler said.

The new switch design will also includes Intel's low latency switch silicon, which comes by way of Intel's acquisition of Fulcrum.

"This device will allow us to move massive amounts of traffic to the virtualized servers that sit below it within the rack," Schooler said.

Server Reference Design

The Open Network Platform Server Reference Design is the virtual instantiation of the SDN switch. The core operating system is the same Wind River Linux that powers the physical switch reference design.

Intel is including its Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) on the server design. The DPDK tool suite helps enable the efficient transfer of packets across the virtualized server infrastructure.

Schooler stressed that the reference designs are not set to become shipping Intel-branded switches and servers.

"These are purely reference designs that allow for the ecosystem to begin enabling and innovating in and amongst these reference architectures," Schooler said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.