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Growing network traffic drives up datacenter expansion costs

Social media, cloud and multimedia services are driving huge increases in network traffic to enterprise and cloud service provider datacenters. To enable more network traffic and faster information access, service providers are buttressing datacenters with higher performance servers and faster networks – infrastructure growth that increases network management, power consumption, system cooling and other operating costs.

Software-defined networking (SDN) reduces network management complexity and cost

Software-defined networking answers these challenges by streamlining network configuration and management to provide application services to users more quickly and cost effectively. SDN separates the control plane (where forwarding and routing decisions are made) and data plane (where the work takes place), allowing administrators to configure and reconfigure networks of switches and routers easily and quickly from a central control panel – similar to the way virtual servers are managed – and adjust network-wide traffic on the fly to meet changing business needs. Ultimately, SDN significantly reduces operational expenses by freeing administrators to manage network services without having to manually configure hardware. SDN also reduces capital expenditures, by increasing traffic utilization of routers and other network resources.

SDN Diagram

The diagram above shows the basic software-defined networking architecture. The data plane consists of servers, switches and other network appliances forming the underlying system that forwards traffic to the selected destination. Other network elements may include firewalls and network interface cards (NICs) that are plugged into a server or network appliance. The controllers make decisions about where traffic is sent and communicate with the network appliances through a standard interface such as OpenFlow. In large networks, the controllers can be managed through an orchestrator using standard interfaces such as Open Stack.

Strong growth forecast for SDN market

The worldwide SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments is forecast by IDC to grow from $360 million in 2013 to a $3.7 billion by 2016*. For SDN to be successful, all elements in the network need to be SDN-aware and interoperable. The Open Networking Foundation was formed to promote SDN standards.

High-performance multicore processors increase SDN performance

Key measures of SDN performance include the communication speed between the controllers and network components and the packet-forwarding speed of each component, which can be significantly increased by offloading system management with the OpenFlow interface to high-performance multicore processors. Multicore processors can also be used for data plane switching and packet forwarding in many systems.

Standard servers and many network appliances use PCI Express® NICs for network connections. These cards typically integrate a packet processing engine that routes packets directly into or out of system memory, offloading packet processing from the system processor. SDNs with standard NICs require system processors to handle the OpenFlow interface, reducing SDN performance. However, a multicore processor-based NIC can significantly boost SDN performance by routing packets at line speed while handling the OpenFlow interface.

LSI® Axxia® Enterprise Communication Processors accelerate SDNs

Ideal for SDN NICs, Axxia Enterprise Communication Processors integrate multiple high-performance processor cores, 1GbE and 10GbE interfaces, Ethernet switching and hardware acceleration for security, traffic management and packet processing.

AXP3420

*IDC “Evolution or Disruption: Where Are We Headed With Software-Defined Networking (SDN),”doc #DR2013_T4_RM, March 2013