Brocade’s first vRouter, the Brocade Vyatta 5400, tops off at around 1 Gb/s due to resource contention in the CPU. The Brocade Vyatta 5600, being announced Wednesday, splits the control and forwarding plane — a software-defined networking (SDN) cliche that, strangely enough, Vyatta hadn’t completely done yet.
This lets the two planes run on separate CPU cores — and that’s important because CPU resource contention is what makes the 5400 top off at 1 Gb/s, Herrell says. The separation means the forwarding plane can get more work done, without the CPU stopping to do control-plane work. The result is a raised speed limit, to 10 Gb/s.
It’s similar to the way Cavium‘s multicore processors work, he says. And it’s an idea that could be applied to Layer 4-7 work. Brocade will be releasing something in that vein soon, Herrell says.
The jump to 10 Gb/s is noteworthy because the rest of the data center is jumping there, particularly in the case of network interface cards (NICs). Virtual routers need to keep up.
If that’s not argument enough, consider the attention being poured into network functions virtualization (NFV), the carrier-driven effort to move networking functions onto general-purpose hardware. Telecom customers are going to be demanding as they shop for software appliances.
“They’re going to be expecting the world in terms of the price and performance they can get out of the NFV movement,” says Kelly Herrell, Brocade’s vice president of software networking.
Help from Intel
An important factor here is the work Intel has put into making x86 processors good at packet forwarding, Herrell says. Intel was an early entrant in what are called network processors — specialty chips for the forwarding plane, nowadays made by the likes of EZchip and Netronome.
Those chips were necessary because general-purpose processors had trouble handling packet processing at the time. That started to change around 2009; by then, Intel had dropped out of network processors but thought Xeon chips were becoming advanced enough for packet processing.
Intel is encouraging packet-forwarding applications by offering the data plane development kit (DPDK), which Brocade used to do its control-plane separation.
The 5600 is due to be available by the end of the year.