With technology advances so pervasive today, it is all too easy to overlook them and not fully realize the value they provide. Who among us is still using the same cellphone from a decade ago? From transportation to banking to medicine, numerous traditional industries are being transformed by technology every day.
Of course, the networking industry is also being transformed by technological progress. And any networking decision maker knows the true value of implementing the latest technologies – because they invariably boost the bottom line for their organizations.
A driving force in changing the cost landscape in telecom has been the adoption and use of Linux as a development platform. Linux has already proven invaluable to the IT computing customer, initially attractive for its lower cost but now mature enough to outperform more costly solutions in applications such as Web serving and back-office data storage. We are now seeing the telecom networking customer investigating the possible benefits Linux might provide to infrastructure development.
However, because of the difference between application development and infrastructure development – where the Linux kernel networking functions themselves are being significantly changed and improved – it is critically important to have actual telecom networking expertise as the driver for these innovations. Over time the Linux kernel has proved itself to be adaptable to these changes, and can sometimes provide surprising results.
Open methodologies are being used now for advanced networking applications, such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). These promise infrastructure cost savings but sometimes at the expense of support, integration, validation, or performance. An open framework can ensure there is a community involved to ensure support where commercial organizations can sometimes lag.
A great example of community-driven network technologies is the data plane development kit (DPDK), a toolkit for high-performance network builders that leverages the data plane to accelerate network applications. Although the toolkit is available open source, in many cases it is not optimized for Linux operation, and the Linux kernel does not natively scale to meet telecom requirements.
To address this support need, DPDK.org was founded as a packet processing framework community to help in development of high-performance networking applications for hardware vendor-neutral applications and the transition to virtualization and NFV. This becomes critical today as advances in hardware manufacturing can commoditize production of this equipment, but still present problems when migrating from legacy equipment to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers.
DPDK is now the open source framework for high-performance packet processing. Initially available for x86 CPUs and Intel NICs, DPDK is now available for all major multi-core processors and 10-, 40-, and 100-gig NICs. More than 20 major projects now use DPDK, including OVS (Open vSwitch) DPDK, OpenDaylight, and OPNFV.
In addition, more incumbent vendors of traditional networking systems are trying to leverage DPDK and open source community involvement – notably, FD.io recently introduced by the Linux Foundation with the support of Cisco, Ericsson, and Intel. 6WIND is a Gold Level Sponsor of FD.io.
Technology organizations involved with creating open source NFV high-performance networking applications now have many solutions to choose from, and it becomes that much more important to remember the goal of these solutions: to improve infrastructure ROI by lowering TCO.