SDN & NFV demos @Interop

At Interop 2014 in Las Vegas last week it was interesting to see the numbers presented during IDC’s annual Interop breakfast meeting, showing the analyst’s latest networking market forecasts. 10GbE and 40GbE datacenter port shipments are expected to reach 20 million ports in 2014 and account for 90% of all datacenter Ethernet switch spend, totally eclipsing 100MbE and Gigabit Ethernet shipments. Virtualization is, according to the firm the single biggest driver of 10GbE/40GbE growth, others being collaboration, big data and cost savings from the reduction of cabling and configuration complexity. That aligns nicely with Advantech NCG’s 10/40GbE NIC and platform strategy which we’re rolling ou across our appliances, servers and ATCA product lines (with 100G activity well under way).

On the SDN front, IDC noted that what has driven early SDN adoption was a need to transition to the cloud and to be able to more intelligently handle heavily virtualized applications, servers and datacenters. IDC added that early adoption of SDN has been driven by network requirements for better multi-tenancy and isolation support, as well as the need for improved automation of network provisioning. That aligned well with the SDN demos we prepared at the Advantech booth where we teamed up with Netronome to demonstrate multi-tenancy support in one of our dual Intel Xeon-based Carrier Grade Servers.

Continuing on with SDN, a dedicated panel session on Wednesday entitled “Will SDN Make Me Homeless?” covered the need for training and the human skills required to understand, operate and program SDN networks as full solutions start to become available. The panel highlighted that SDN is growing beyond just building blocks, controllers and protocols to deployable solutions.  The panel also concluded that SDN is moving beyond the data center as it can potentially offer bigger benefits from new security models, QoS, and deployment models rather than just virtualization. With network automation and complexity abstraction being the some of the major benefits, SDN allows businesses to make changes to the network without reconfiguring the underlying topology. HP stated that automating the network and abstracting complexity are major potential benefits. Those are the things that make SDN different from previous technology such as VLANs.

Meanwhile Alcatel-Lucent introduced their Unified Access approach for both wired and wireless networks, via a new access switch with SDN capabilities, giving IT departments more visibility and control of the network, while employees and customers gain flexibility to use the applications they need. Their Interop announcement stated that this was fueled by cloud services and the ‘BYOD’ phenomenon, and the fact that with the number and type of applications used in enterprises growing, IT teams need to be armed with new tools and capabilities that ensure business goals are met and the network remains secure. The company also stated that by adding deep packet inspection at the wired and wireless access layer, network analytics tools can be provided that help IT teams gain improved visibility into the applications, and also create policies and enforce them at the edge of the network to secure and optimize delivery of applications.  The release stated that Alcatel-Lucent’s entire switch portfolio now has SDN capabilities with interfaces reaching across the access, to the core and into the data center, providing customers investment protection and enabling interoperability with third-party solutions and open plug-ins for full orchestration across the entire network. 

Well, with SDN controlled devices on the up there was no surprise that additional SDN announcements were going  to be made at Interop , one from Extreme Networks who rolled out a new SDN architecture and a high-end switch and another from Supermicro who announced their entry to the SDN market with their SDN SuperSwitch.

Blog SDN NFV Demo 1Over on the Advantech booth we took two major steps forward with our own SDN strategy. The first was the showcase of an Openflow demo running on our ESP-9212 Top-of-Rack switch which we announced at the SDN World Congress in 4Q 2013. For the second we teamed up with Netronome to demonstrate SDN and NFV functionality using their NS-3000 FlowNICs integrated into our FWA-3210 network appliance and our CGS-6000 dual Intel Xeon Carrier Grade Server.

Although SDN and NFV were at the heart of wireless infrastructure transformation demos in many booths at MWC this year,  the show was slightly too early for us to get our demos up and running. As SDN is also gaining ground in the data center and the WAN and was one of the focus threads atInterop, we chose it as the next best event where we’d be ready to launch our new products. The demonstration we put together (thanks to Terry Yang from our Milpitas office, along with Mark Guinther  and Daniel Proch from Netronome) shows the breadth and scope of applications that are possible on a Netronome powered Advantech platform. 

SDN, is of course all about separating the control plane from the data plane, making the latter simple and fast, dealing mostly with the MAC and IP layers. The interface between the two is referred to as the southbound interface and uses the OpenFlow protocol defined by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) as the interface between the two. Using the Netronome FlowNIC and software we were able to showcase an SDN gateway solution. The SDN gateway combines both NFV and SDN: the gateway is built using virtualized COTS server architecture, in this case our Advantech CGS-6000 Carrier Grade Server, while the overall network  is controlled through SDN. The SDN gateway combines L2-L3 OpenFlow switching with high-layer services, or L4-L7. These include load balancer, firewall and IPS/IDS network equipment. The result is a L2-L7 gateway device which is x86-based leveraging network I/O acceleration. Higher-layer services are hosted as virtual network functions (VNFs) running on the CGS-6000 virtualized server architecture.

The gateway function we demonstrated can connect a private or public cloud to the WAN and interconnect geographically disparate enterprises over the WAN.  The solution can be used for several applications such as multi-tenant data center connectivity to an MPLS WAN under SDN OpenFlow 1.3 control,  Enterprise –to- enterprise connectivity over the WAN  also under SDN OpenFlow 1.3 control  and Accelerated (OpenVSwitch) OVS with OVSDB and  OF-Config support.

The SDN controller was running on an FWA-3210 network appliance with a bird’s-eye view of the whole network and able to dynamically steer traffic based on statistics gathered from the network. Third-party applications, management and orchestration functions can run north of the SDN controller and in SDN are network-aware, allowing them to communicate their requirements policies to the network. At the same time, applications can monitor network state and adapt accordingly.

The demo set up is shown in the diagram below where:

Advantech server #1:  FWA-3210 network appliance which housed a traffic generation application by UK-based Argon Design Ltd running on a Netronome NS-3000 acceleration card.  Traffic was generated from this source.  This server also ran an Ryu SDN controller which was used to control Advantech server #2.

Advantech server #2: This was the CGS-6000 with dual Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600’s  hosting multiple network monitoring and security applications running under SDN control.  We used Snort to demonstrate IDS/IPS functions and ntop for DPI and raw monitoring, both are commonly used open source applications. The SDN controller was used to configure and control how flows are steered into the two applications, considered virtualized networking functions (VNFs)

 Blog SDN NFV Demo 2

Netronome’s Flow Processors (NFP) and software accelerate the network inside the CGS-6000 server. The combined solution allows for full OVS offload onto the NFP, where the NFP is purpose built for this workload and simultaneously relieves the host CPU from the equivalent processing. This partitioning of workloads enables OVS-based applications and security services to scale to 10-100GbE data rates while seamlessly staying under OVS control, making it fully compatible with SDNs in today’s data centers.  The solution also supports Intel’s DPDK Poll Mode Driver (PMD), allowing for an accelerated datapath to x86 over PCIe and simplified integration with data center applications and services.

For OVS acceleration, this solution makes use of a heterogeneous processing architecture where application and control tasks are handled by the general purpose Intel Xeon CPUs and datapath flow forwarding is handled by the NFP .  By off-loading the datapath forwarding tasks to the NFP, the host system CPU resources are left fully available for business application and network/security services.  All match and action fields used in OVS 1.11 today are supported on the accelerated datapath and the OVS control software operates identically to that of the non-accelerated, open-source version.

The CGS-6000 and NS-3000 solution used in the demo scales to 20Gbps of flow forwarding and over 4.5 million flows per second. As we prepare for next generation hardware based on the NFP-6000 which provides over 200 cores and 1000 threads, we expect the system to scale to 200Gbps of flow forwarding and over 15M connections/second with-out performance degradation.  This will allow applications to scale well beyond 20Gbps and 100Gbps without hitting networking bottlenecks in software-only implementations.

The combined platform allows OVS instantiations to scale beyond single Gigabit rates to 100G within a COTS server platform lending itself to several  deployment modes and use cases,  including highly virtualized end servers, SDN security applications and data  center gateways.

We’re working hard at installing the demo in our labs as a apart of our new Remote Evaluation Services initiative. Check that out here or drop a line to

In a second Interop summary blog next week, Terry Yang will be describing our top-of-rack switch demo and discussing our new 2U Quad Socket Platform with up to 16 x 40GbE ports. Watch this space….and don’t forget the Easter eggs!

Paul Stevens – Telecom Sector Marketing Director

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