Heavy Reading
Switch Technology & Components for SDN & the White Box Era
The deployment of software-defined networking (SDN) is having a major impact on the architecture of data center and other networks, and is driving a new ecosystem, including switch silicon, embedded software and systems. SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) have significant potential to reduce service provider capex and opex by replacing dedicated systems with virtual functions running on standard servers, standard switches and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) platforms that integrate switching and server hardware. Service providers, system developers and switch manufacturers are all making significant investments in solutions for SDN.

Server performance continues to grow, and virtualized environments require significantly greater network bandwidth (East-West) between servers. Most high performance servers already have dual 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GE) connections and the latest Intel Xeon processors based on the Haswell microarchitecture can support more than 40Gbit/s packet processing. The recent development of 25Gbit/s and 50Gbit/s Ethernet provides a cost-effective upgrade with single or dual 25GE network interface cards (NIC) replacing 10GE NICs. To support this development switch vendors are introducing a new generation of switches with flexible ports that support 4x25 GE, 2x50 GE or 100 GE.

Software developers have introduced enhanced network operating systems and stacks with support for SDN that will run on a wide range of hardware platforms. This development enables a new market for "white box" switches using merchant switch chipsets and open software interfaces.

The major shift to virtualized networks using SDN and NFV requires a new class of switch with new features and capabilities. SDN will allows service providers to deploy a flexible network that is implemented on standard server and switch hardware significantly reducing capital and operating costs. Large networks and multiple data centers can be managed using common tools, no matter what the size, location or hardware used. These benefits can be delivered without compromising network performance and with full interoperability between different SDN-enabled systems and software.

The switch market is changing, with carriers sourcing white box switch solutions and investing in open solutions including SDN, NFV and the Open Compute Project (OCP). The challenge for the industry is not only to develop these next-generation switch devices, but also ensure they interoperate with the growing open network infrastructure. SDN solutions must support the complex mix of virtual and physical servers, switches and other systems. The winners will be those that can deliver on performance, flexibility and interoperability as the SDN architecture and ecosystem continues to develop.

Switch Technology & Components for SDN & the White Box Era details and analyzes high-performance Ethernet switch devices, embedded SDN and operating system software and innovative SDN switch systems, identifying the key requirements and highlighting the advantages they hold for equipment manufacturers and service providers. The report also reviews vendor strategies and surveys component features, performance and flexibility in this important market.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (cci0415_toc.pdf)
The following excerpt shows the basic SDN architecture. The networking elements (data plane) including switches, servers, firewalls and NICs are configured and managed by controllers. The network system is configured and managed through a global orchestrator. A key feature of SDN is the use of open interfaces between the controllers and other elements. These interfaces and the SDN architecture are continually being developed and promoted by industry organizations.

[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies profiled in this report include: 6Wind S.A.; Arista Networks Inc. (NYSE: ANET); Big Switch Networks Inc.; Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM); Cavium Inc. (Nasdaq: CAVM); Centec Networks (Su Zhou) Co. Ltd.; Compass Networks Inc.; Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC); IP Infusion, a wholly-owned and independently-operated subsidiary of Access Co. Ltd. (TYO: 4813); Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL); Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX); Packet Architects AB; and Pica8 Inc.
Total pages: 21