After teasing a major IP product launch for months, Nokia today unveiled routing platforms powered by proprietary silicon that the company says are six times more powerful than any other network processors on the market.
Nokia says its FP4 silicon will enable webscale operators and service providers to build faster, more secure networks.
In an interview with SDxCentral, Steve Vogelsang, CTO for Nokia’s IP and optical business, said big-data driven technologies including Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) place new demands on networks.
“What we need is a new way to build networks,” Vogelsang said. Nokia Bell Labs’ forecasts predict IP traffic will more than double in the next five years, reaching 330 exabytes per month by 2022. They also expect 100 billion connected devices by 2025. “We need a more insight-driven network,” Vogelsang said.
Enter Nokia’s new chipset.
Nokia’s FP4 Silicon
The networking chipset has a 2.4 Tb/s network processor. This innovation enables clear-channel terabit speeds and petabit-class routers, the company said.
Nokia also built intelligent memory into the chip.
The new FP4-based routing platforms are the company’s first that deliver terabit IP flows. This is a 10-times improvement over the existing 100 Gb/s links — the highest on the market, Vogelsang said.
“This really gives a very significant boost to overall capacity,” he said. “And we’re doing all this while enhancing the telemetry and very fine-grained control we put into the router itself.”
“We’re starting to see DDoS attacks that exceed 1 terabit per second,” he explained. “The typical approach: if you don’t have the fine-grain control in the routers themselves all you can do is route all that traffic back to a scrubbing center somewhere and spend all that energy scrubbing the traffic. By building in this finer-grain control into our next-generation routers with the FP4 silicon, we can block the vast majority of that traffic at the network edges.”
IHS Markit analyst Michael Howard called Nokia’s FP4 “the hottest chip around.”
“It uses very interesting chip technology and crams so much into a single chip,” Howard said, citing the chips power, built-in memory, and the instrumentation and analytics. “Instrumentation and analytics are key to doing any kind of real automation for networks. To take steps toward a self-driving network – I’m not saying this is a self-driving network at all – but to do this, you need telemetry and analytics ability. They’ve incorporated those into the best router chip on the planet.”
ACG analyst and CEO Ray Mota said he’s “surprised and impressed” by the new chipset. “Normally you see innovation of chipsets being the increase in capacity by x-fold, but the fact that impresses me is how it is backwards-compatible with their line cards,” Mota said, meaning customers can still use older Nokia line cards with the new routers.
“The other part is the integration of security specs,” he added. Nokia embedded packet intelligence and control technology in the FP4. This technology, combined with the company’s Deepfield IP network analytics software and software-defined networking (SDN) portfolio, mitigate security threats such as DDoS attacks.
“DDoS attacks are becoming more frequent,” Mota said. “For businesses, mitigating that on the edge and having that level of intelligence with Deepfield is important. But the chip part, honestly, is the wow factor.”
Proprietary vs. Merchant Silicon
Is Nokia bucking the merchant silicon trend with its proprietary FP4 silicon? Analysts and Vogelsang said there’s a place in the network for both white box and more specialized products.
“The most common place for white box is going to be at the edge of the network, but there’s always going to be a need in networks for this specialized hardware where white box will not do the job,” Howard said.
Mota said the network core — the central part of a telecommunications network that provides services to customers connected by the access network — requires a more powerful chip component.
“There’s a place for merchant silicon, on the edge of the network,” Mota said.“But then there are areas where you need pure, raw capacity. There’s the core, which requires high performance, scalability.”
Vogelsang said while merchant silicon is typically used inside the data center, Nokia’s silicon is used to connect data centers and route traffic to the Internet.
“When we look at the landscape for networking, we see a role for a variety of different chips in the market,” Vogelsang said. “There’s the data center need for very low cost, low feature functionality. You don’t need a lot of buffering or sophistication, you just need a lot of ports.”
Nokia’s new silicon, on the other hand, “is designed for areas in the network where you are routing high volumes of traffic and need to maximize utilization of the optical links.”