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Xilinx SDNet cranks up programmability

Posted: 13 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:softly defined network? SDN? FPGA?

For network OEMs, carriers and multiple systems operators (MSOs), this translates into new services that can be provisioned on a per-flow basis, with in-service network upgrades while operating at 100 per cent line rate.

Key to these "Softly" Defined Networks is Xilinx's Software Defined Specification Environment (SDNet). Combined with the company's All Programmable FPGAs, SDNet allows system architects to specify and deploy exact application services without requiring an understanding of the underlying device architecture or a complex programming language C see below.

SDNet

Figure 3: Software defined specification environment for networking.

Compared to ASIC or ASSP-based line cards, the "softly" defined line card envisaged by Xilinx would drastically reduce OpEx (no need to go and physically change hardware) while extending the reach of CapEx with line cards staying longer into the network infrastructure.

The FPGA vendor has already shipped its SDNet framework to tier-one customers who are currently evaluating new packet processing and data forwarding scenarios that the added flexibility gives them.

"Network OEMs are still working to understand what will be the actual savings made over CapEx and OpEx so it is difficult to put hard numbers on these," said Gilles Garcia, Director of Marketing & Corporate Global Account Manager for Wired Communications at Xilinx. "But they can expect a tenfold increase in productivity to develop a new line card."

"There is a fierce competition between server players, and when they are using ASSPs, only software is the differentiator at the control plane," explained Garcia.

"For future networks, we need to transition from 1Gbit to 10Gbit or even 100Gbit line cards, but none of the server farms natively support these speeds, so there is a need for accelerators, for packet processing, for data pre-processing to optimise network integration with specific algorithms, multiple SSD controllers," Garcia added.

Those driving this transition to software defined networks are mostly Telco providers and data centres. Garcia gave us some examples of new services enabled by softly defined networks. These could include specific packet searches and data-filtering, say to provision premium services for Netflix video-on-demand services with a set Quality of Service (QoS).

In the future, this flexible approach to designing reconfigurable networks could enable smarter network boxes, maybe designed with more cache capacity so more decisions could be made on the data at the line card level rather than the data having to go all the way to a data centre for processing.


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