This week starts the Open Networking Summit where Intel will demonstrate its support for the software-defined networking (SDN) movement with a demonstration of our Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6000 series working with an OpenFlow controller.


I wrote a post earlier this week that provides a good overview of the demo and Intel’s other activities at the show. Now, I want to give a little more insight into the technology that we’ve built into the FM6000 that makes it an ideal solution for these networks.


SDN technologies are revolutionary because they bypass L2/L3 IP protocols and instead use a software control panel and SDN data flow tables that direct incoming packets where to go. Thus, the switch is called upon to examine characteristics of incoming packets and switch them into an SDN-defined flow. As we wrote in a white paper that we recently posted:


Incoming frame header fields are looked up in the TCAM (ternary content addressable memory), which allows partial matches with the usage of wildcards. Matches in the TCAM point to an entry in the RAM, which controls various operations to be performed in the incoming frame header fields as well as extracting and propagating these fields to subsequent stages.


This logic can be built into the switch, but then what about any IP traffic that flows through that switch?  One of the virtues of SDN is that it is a standard that can be used across switches from different manufacturers to “unlock” the network from proprietary protocols.  But in the mean time, switch ICs need to support both traditional networking and SDN.


The FM6000 has built the parsing logic in its flexible frame forwarding unit so that it can be programmed to look for any networking protocol, either OpenFlow, standard routing or emerging data center switching protocols like TRILL, data center bridging and others.


The other advantage of this parsing flexibility is ability to deliver traditional Ethernet functionality that is not supported in OpenFlow, such as network address translation, load balancing and IP tunneling.


Of course, all of this must be done at wire speed and at very low latency, and that’s what you will see if you are able to stop by our demo at ONS. If you want a deeper look behind the technology, or take a look at our new white paper which gives an overview of our ONS features.