In this article we’d like to remind you about the Software Defined Network (SDN) concept and discuss its implementation in the Intel ONS platform.

What is SDN?

There is a lot of information available about SDN, so we will just briefly remind you the basic idea, which is to manage network equipment and data transfers separately.

Here are the benefits of this solution:

  • Direct network programming: The separation of the management planes lets you build your architecture directly.
  • Flexibility: the administrator can adjust the network’s operation rules “on the fly” to adapt to changing requirements.
  • Centralized management: All management options are combined (logically) in a single location, namely in the SDN controller. The network is identified by applications as a single logical switch.
  • Software-based configuring: The SDN concept allows to configure, manage, define security rules and optimize network resources quickly through automated means. You can even develop your own tools for that purpose.
SDN
Fig. 1. SDN

The concept is still controversial, yet we think it is highly perspective.

Hardware from Intel

Last year Intel unveiled a number of FM6000 Ethernet switches based on solutions from Fulcrum Microsystems, a firm Intel had bought previously.

FM6000 design idea
Fig. 2. FM6000 design idea

They are positioned as hybrid switches capable of going over easily from traditional switching to SDN. Their key feature is that they can use either an OpenFlow or a traditional packet processor. Being highly flexible, the Intel FM6000’s parser supports any standards, so the administrator can actually define his own protocols. The flexibility is due to the parser’s design:

The parser's TCAM/RAM/MUX structure
Fig. 3. The parser’s TCAM/RAM/MUX structure

A switch of this kind can work on traditional and OpenFlow networks simultaneously, delivering high performance with extremely low latencies.

Reference design
Fig. 4. Reference design
Table 1. Models available in the series

Features and Specifications

Intel® Ethernet Switch FM5224

Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6300

Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6700

Maximum bandwidth

240G

640Gbps

640Gbps

Maximum SGMII ports

72

72

72

Maximum XAUI ports

2

24

24

Maximum 10G KR ports

8

64

64

Maximum 40G KR4 ports

2

16

16

Cut-through latency

400nS

400nS

400nS

Frame processing rate

360Mpps

960Mpps

960Mpps

Shared packet memory size

8MB

8MB

8MB

Traffic classes

8

8

8

MAC table size

64K

64K

64K

ACL rules

24K

24K

24K

IPv4/IPv6 routes

64K/16K

64K/16K

64K/16K

Intel® Flexpipe™ technology

Yes

Yes

Yes

Advanced load balancing

Yes

Yes

Yes

CEE/DCB features

Yes

Yes

Yes

Server virtualization support

Yes

Yes

Yes

Advanced tunneling features

No

Yes

Yes

SDN support

No

No

Yes

CPU interface

PCIe*, EBI

PCIe gen2

PCIe gen2

Target applications

Micro servers

Data center top of rack switch, network appliances, and video distribution.

Data center and communications infrastructure supporting software defined networking

Software from Intel

It is for such switches that Intel unveiled the Wind River Open Network Software solution.

ONS structure
Fig. 5. ONS structure

Features:

  • Modular, open and expandable architecture with access to low-level functions
  • System interfaces with open APIs and RPCs.
  • XML-RPC based management interface
  • Object-oriented design with XML and database schemas
  • Application development kit for embedding new applications into the switch
  • Native support for a number of protocols and modular extensions

Key L2 and L3 features and datacenter bridging functionality are supported.

Layer 2

  • Port-based VLAN
  • 802.1Q VLAN
  • IGMP snooping
  • LACP
  • Storm Control
  • STP/RSTP/MSTP
  • Q-in-Q
  • QoS/DiffServ
  • L2/L3/L4 ACL
  • LLDP (802.1ab)

Layer 3

  • Static route
  • VLAN routing
  • OSPF v2
  • ECMP
  • ARP
  • IGMP*
  • PIM-SM*
  • VRRP*
  • OSPF v3*
  • PIM-SM6*
  • DHCPv6 relay
  • BGP

Management

  • CLI/WEB/SNMP
  • IPv6 management
  • Auto-Installation

Data Center Application

  • 802.1Qaz (ETS)
  • 802.1Qbb (PFC)
  • DCBX
  • VM Tracer
  • EVB/802.1Qbg
  • OpenFlow v1.0
  • VXLAN
  • NVGRE*

Features marked with the “*” character will be supported in the future versions.

Here is the perfect switch of the future as envisioned by Intel:

ONS
Fig. 6. SDN

What is our part?

What do we have if we take the top-end Intel FM6764 model and the ONS network stack?

Just an excellent switch!

Front view
Fig. 7. Front view

It’s got 48 10G SFP+ and four 10G QSFP ports, one USB port, console and management ports.

Rear view
Fig. 8. Rear view

There are also two power supplies, and hot-swappable ventilation.

Inside view
Fig. 9. Inside view

And there is an Intel Core i3 processor, 2 GB of system memory, and a 30GB SSD.