Software-defined networking (SDN) promises to transform equipment ecosystems, increase flexibility and network responsiveness, and reduce costs. A key to achieving all of this is moving from purpose built to commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) gear. This is increasingly challenging, however, as network traffic accelerates.
This week, Ethernity Networks addressed this issue with the introduction of its ENET vRouter, a programmable network appliance that enables 100 Gb/s (100G) routing.
The platform divides the two flows – the control layer and the data layer – and handles them in a way that makes sense for each. The platform consists of the vRouter software and ACE-NIC1000 FPGA SmartNIC in the COTS server.
“Looking at the business case, it allows network and data center operators to install next-generation software-based routers with no costly investments in new hardware,” Lior Mishan, head of marketing for Ethernity Networks, told SDxCentral in an email. “It is a scalable router solution that fits any COTS server.”
The idea is that typical COTS servers struggle to support SDN as they currently are used because central processing units called on to support the data plane are not built for speed. Enabling the network to use this model therefore requires expensive multicore servers, Mishan said.
The Ethernity approach is to not ask the COTS server to do something it is not capable of doing. Instead, it processes the data plane through the ACE-NIC100, which is built to handle the load. It is a field programmable gate array (FPGA) and therefore can be remotely controlled. The COTS server continues to handle the control layer, a job for which it is best suited, Mishan added.
In tests, Mishan said that host CPU utilization was less than 3 percent for thousands of user flow, with latency of less than 10 microseconds and jitter of about 500 nanoseconds. “Such performances are not possible with any existing software-based routers,” he explained. “Compared to them, the vRouter provides one or even two orders of magnitude better performance.”
Heavy Reading analyst-at-large Simon Stanley sees the logic behind the new platform. “There is definitely a market for smart NICs and a market for vRouter functions,” he wrote. “By bundling the vRouter with the smart NIC, Ethernity should save their customers integration costs and be able to offer a more cost-effective solution.”
There are added bonuses. Mishan wrote that space and power requirements are lower, which is key as data center functionality is being distributed to the edge and often into tight quarters. It also frees up the COTS gear.
“With the data layer running on the ACE-NIC, the server can be used to run other user applications,” Mishan wrote.
Full production will begin in the next quarter, Mishan wrote. The list price for the vRouter software and the 100G ACE-NIC100 is about $6,000 depending upon configuration and quantities. The product is available as an appliance or for integration into the COTS server. The cost of the appliance option depends upon the server selected.