At Interop this week, we saw several examples of the industry moving toward the flat data center network and software defined networking. 


System latency important in flat networks

Flat data center networks require new, large core switches that absorb what were previously defined as the aggregation and core switch layers. Two such core switches were announced from Huawei* and Gnodal* at the show.


But one of the key ingredients in the flat data center network is the top-of-rack (ToR) switch that feeds these core switches. In order to reduce the cost and complexity of these high-bandwidth core switches, L3 forwarding and tunneling is being delegated to the ToR switches. This fact is forcing core switch companies to think about the performance that customers will experience across their entire data center fabric.


For example, Gnodal’s new core switch provides very low latency, so why surround it with ToR switches with high L3 latency? That’s why at Interop we drew a lot of attention from attendees to the Intel® Ethernet FM6000 series, which provides the industry’s lowest L3 cut-through latency along with features such as advanced load balancing and network address translation (NAT). As a proof point, we had a low-latency NAT demonstration using our FM6000 series along with our new Seacliff Trail ToR switch reference platform.


SDN is the new network OS

Software defined networking (SDN) was another hot topic at the show. As you may know, this promises to bring something similar to a standard OS for networking applications to run on. Our FM6000 series was highlighted in two SDN Interop demos.


One was hosted by NEC*, which won “Best of Interop,” and the other one was at the InteropNet Openflow Lab. It was clear from the comments I received, that many end customers are interested in SDN, but are waiting for the standards to become more mature.


A nice feature available in our FM6000 series is the ability to divide our frame-processing pipeline and packet memory into separate partitions, one for SDN forwarding and one for traditional layer-3 forwarding. This allows network administrators to experiment with new SDN technology while not disrupting normal network operations.


The trends on display at Interop confirm that Intel is on the leading edge of the flat networking and SDN trends for future networks.