Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (2-06-12): Gearing up for Software Defined Networks - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (2-06-12): Gearing up for Software Defined Networks

Embedded Newsletter for 2/6/12

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February 6, 2012

Tech Focus: Gearing up for Software Defined Networks


Controlling network flow with the OpenFlow protocol

Big Switch releases open source controller for OpenFlow

NEC adds OpenFlow capability to its network switch family

HP rolls OpenFlow code for its switches

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

In the new edition of Embedded Systems Design Magazine, Daniel Proch, in “Controlling network flow with the OpenFlow protocol“, describes a new network protocol developed to solve a potential Internet traffic jam of monumental proportions. The protocol was developed by Internet backbone equipment providers and major technology companies to head off a “perfect storm” of events they felt could bring everything to a sudden stop if the very architecture of the public network was not redesigned.

First there was the continuing improvement in the Internet backbone speeds, with data rates in 10 to 100s of gigabits per second becoming common. Second, gigantic server farms now make the idea of “cloud computing” – the storing and processing of huge amounts of data remotely rather than locally – a reality. Third, there was the final transition to IPv6 and the enormous number of URLs now available – enough for not only every PC, but for every mobile phone for every human on earth. And with 6LoWPAN, this connectivity extended into a variety of wireless sensor applications as well.

To head off these problems, companies such as Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and Yahoo, to name a few, came together a year ago and formed the Open Networking Foundation. Their aim: creation of a virtualized  “software defined networking architecture flexible enough to manage such problems and low cost enough to be implemented quickly and broadly.

Fortunately they did not have to wait years for such a scheme to emerge. One that was already at hand, the OpenFlow protocol, a multi-university cross-platform scheme , extends the concept of network virtualization used in many closed networks to the broader Internet. Even before a commercial version of the protocol is formalized, a number of products have become available from companies such as Big Switch , Broadcom , Cisco , Hewlett Packard , IBM, Marvell, NEC and Netronome – many of them hybrid designs to allow smooth flow from the old to the new.

In addition to a collection of design articles and webinars here, two white papers I think you will find useful are “Designing Datacenter Networks: Alternative Approaches with OpenFlow“, and “IBM White Paper: OpenFlow – Next Generation in Network Interoperability“. And here's a list of technical papers published over the past year on using OpenFlow in a variety of networking environments. If you want to get down to the specifics of this protocol and some of the alternatives being discussed, plan on attending the second annual Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, Ca., April 16-18.

Despite the increasing momentum toward OpenFlow, a lot of skeptical tire-kicking is still going on. According to Proch, while some factions in the industry believe OpenFlow is the next big thing in computer networking, others think it is just the newest fad and will fade away while existing networking technologies and methods continue to be prevalent.

What do you think? I'd like to hear from you with design articles and blogs on OpenFlow: its strengths, its weaknesses, how it can be improved, how you are implementing it in your designs, and if you are not doing so, why not? What alternatives are you investigating? (On another topic, EETimes staff asked attendees at DesignCon about jobs in the U.S. See their responses in “Video: Are tech jobs returning to the U.S.? )

Design How-Tos

Controlling network flow with the OpenFlow protocol

A new twist on network flow processing gives network administrators programmatic control of network flows to strategically place traffic where resources exist. Here's why you may be building the open-source specification OpenFlow (or similar protocol) into routers, switches, and other devices to realize the benefits of Software-Defined Networks.

Using virtualization to consolidate data traffic on a single network appliance

How Napatech used VMWare's virtualization software to consolidate multiple network appliances and their traffic flows onto a single physical platform

Network I/O Virtualization and the Need for Network I/O Coprocessors

Programmable, stateful, flow-aware processor architectures capable of providing 40Gbps of L2-L7 network I/O can help remove the bottlenecks in highly virtualized multicore systems.

PRODUCT HOW-TO: Use multicore flow processing to boost network router/security appliance throughput

Adding the Netronome NFP-3240 network flow processor to a standard x86 platform allows network router/switch and security appliances to perform regular expression matching at 10 to 40 Gbps, without the assistance of specialized hardware.

Using PCI Express as a fabric for interconnect clustering

A number of interconnect technologies are vying to replace GbE, with the top contenders being 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), InfiniBand (IB) and PCI Express (PCIe). The latter, with its advanced capabilities, makes a strong case for becoming the ideal backplane interconnect solution.

Using PCI Express I/O Virtualization to pool network switch/server blade resources

Here's how to use virtualization to allow physical network I/O switch and server blade hardware to be pooled and shared across multiple applications while maintaining the standard access and execution models for operating systems and applications.

Using multi-root (MR) PCIe to extend nextgen multi-host storage & server switch fabrics

Applications developers waiting for a full PCIe MR-IOV implementations can start implementing key MR-IOV functions through MR switches that allow them to service embedded systems' needs more effectively and efficiently than the traditional methods.

The basics of network processors

Network “plumbing” like routers and switches place unusual demands on processors; hence the rise of the network processor. Here's a snapshot of the state of the NPU art, outlining what makes a network processor and what features are likely to become most popular.

Making packet processing more efficient with a network-optimized multicore design: Part 1

In terms of both power consumption, it is now feasible to build complete network packet processing designs using general purpose architecture processors, rather than dedicated ASIC and ASSP SoCs optimized for the application. Part 1: Pipeline versus clustering cores for networking.

Network Processor Programming

Network processors are designed for speed, but programming them is often a challenge. Here, you'll find the information you need to write software that makes the most of them.

Embedded Systems Bookshelf


Embedded Books Reading Room
Bernard Cole's favorite links to book excerpts.


Engineer's Bookshelf
Airport fiction blows. A look at books other engineers are reading and why you should read them, too. Recommend and write a review yourself. E-mail Brian Fuller.

Jack Ganssle's Bookshelf
A list of book reviews by Jack Ganssle, contributing technical editor of Embedded Systems Design and Embedded.com.

Max's Cool Beans
Clive “Max” Maxfield, the editor on Programmable Logic DesignLine, often writes about interesting books.


NEC adds OpenFlow capability to its network switch family

The NEC ProgrammableFlow Switches enable launch of nationwide Software Defined Network Service

CPUs: Netronome ships its X86-compatible multicore network flow engine

Netronome is now shipping its NFP-3240 network flow processor, a follow-on to Intel's IXP28XX line of network processors, specifically designed for tight coupling with general purpose X-86-based multicore Intel processors to accelerate network, security and content performance up to 40 and 100 Gbps.

Xelerated's HX336 NPU reduces power consumption by 50%, rapid transition to 100GE

The HX336 from Xelerated is a wirespeed single-chip network processor (NPU) with advanced traffic management and deep packet buffering for 100GE/OTU4 systems, the latest addition to Xelerated's HX family of network processors. The HX336 reduces power consumption by approximately 50 percent compared to competing multi-chip packet processing and traffic management solutions.

AppliedMicro's PQX provides world's highest density framer/PHY SoC for Multi-10G/40G/100G carrier ethernet and OTN applications

AppliedMicro has announced the PQX, the industry's highest density, lowest power 10G/40G Optical Transport Network (OTN) framer/PHY SoC for Carrier Ethernet router and WDM transport systems.

News & Analysis

HP rolls OpenFlow code for its switches

Hewlett-Packard has released OpenFlow software for 16 of its network switches with plans to extend that support this year to all its switches.

Big Switch releases open source controller for OpenFlow

Big Switch Networks has released Floodlight, an Apache-licensed open source Openflow controller for building software defined networks.

Netronome debuts cards, system for packet processing

Netronome will debut at the Multicore Expo two PCI Express Gen2 adapter cards and a chassis-based system using its 40-core network processor announced late last year at a time when rival Cavium Networks is expected to announce a 32-core device.

Video: Are tech jobs returning to the U.S.?

EE Times hit the exhibition floor at DesignCon 2012 to get engineers' perspectives on whether high-tech jobs are coming back to the U.S.


Video: Are tech jobs returning to the U.S.?

EE Times hit th

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