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More companies are implementing virtualized data centers in the cloud to take advantage of flexibility and efficiency of these computing resources at a time when demands for data processing, storage and network bandwidth are growing exponentially.


When the cloud is used as an extension of their enterprise, these users want their hosted cloud network to behave like a traditional network, including layer 2 forwarding and VLAN isolation. This requires cloud providers to implement specialized multi-tenant environments, where each tenant is provided with an isolated virtualized network. Because the cloud data centers must flexibly deploy virtual tenant networks across a physical network that may connect hundreds of thousands of virtual machines, layer 3 tunneling is used to provide these network overlays. But the tunneling protocol must be invisible to the VMs that are acting as if they are simply forwarding layer 2 traffic.


Two new Internet Engineering Task Force* (IETF) draft standard proposals have recently emerged to provide network overlays in these multi-tenant environments. VxLAN is a protocol backed by Cisco* and VMware* among others, and NVGRE is a protocol backed by Microsoft* and others. Each has its plusses and minuses, and you can read the debates going on in the industry regarding which is better.


As part of our Intel Cloud 2015 on-going cloud data center initiative, with particular focus on automation (virtualization), we can support either protocol in our Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6000 Series products. These ICs are designed for top-of-rack switches, which are situated at the right place in the network to support these new tunneling protocols.  Our Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6000 Series devices contain Intel® FlexPipe™ Technology that can be reconfigured to support new and emerging network protocols, and VxLAN and NVGRE are no exception. Here are two examples of this support:


1.   Intel is participating in the Microsoft //Build/ Conference at the end of October, where NVGRE will be demonstrated.

2.   At this week’s VMworld conference, Arista Networks* will talk about their participation in a multi-vendor demo of VxLAN in a keynote address. They will demonstrate the VxLAN protocol running on their new low-latency top of rack switches utilizing Intel Ethernet switch silicon.


We are proud to be working with customers like Arista on these advanced network overlay technologies.

Data center networking standards are constantly evolving – both for IP networks and for new software-defined networks (SDN).


This leaves most switch chip makers to either wait for the final standard to hard-code the protocols in their device, or to augment the switch with lower-performance programmable silicon and count on a software enhancement to boost speed after the chip has been designed into a system. 


Neither is ideal. That’s why we built innovative support for upgradeable microcode into the Intel® FlexPipe™ packet-processing engine that is the foundation of Intel’s Alta switch chip architecture, the basis of the Intel® Ethernet FM6000 family of low latency switches.  Microcode support gives FM6000 chips the ability to run new protocols with performance of a hard-coded solution and the flexibility of a software solution. 


Typically, when one hears the term microcode and programmability, it is assumed that the architecture is a run-to-completion or non-deterministic model.  FlexPipe operates in a deterministic manner, meaning that with any possible microcode implementation, the engine will maintain up to one billion packets per second of throughput performance and less than 400ns of L3 processing latency.


With the use of microcode, we can provide customers with a rich set of flexible features that can be adapted to changing market needs. Our customers can get to market early, before industry groups finalize standards, allowing future-proof system designs. It also allows customers to support standards that haven’t yet been introduced into the standards committees.



This means that the parsing and matching logic needed to forward SDN packets can be built into the switch today, as can some of the existing and evolving IP data center standards such as MPLS, IPinIP, NAT, EVB, VxLAN, NVGRE, FCoE or other proprietary switching headers for vertical markets. In addition, system administrators can test new SDN implementations while maintaining normal network operation with the use of two simultaneous microcode images.



FlexPipe is the key differentiator for the FM6000 family, giving them the performance and flexibility they need to deliver the top-of-rack switch performance necessary for high-port count virtualized networks.

OK, maybe not ALL you ever wanted to know, but all we've shared with you up until now, all in one place!


It has been nearly 2½ years since I posted my first ever Blog, it was about

Setting up Red Hat 5.4 Xen* for SR-IOV using the Intel® 82576 GbE.  Since that time I’ve managed to post a blog now and then, usually pointing you to a new paper or video I’ve published.


The very smart fellow who is now responsible for the Intel Ethernet Virtualization technology has continued to write great documents on how to configure things such as SR-IOV in different environments.


So we have managed to accumulate a fairly nice list of documents and videos that talk about SR-IOV and one usage of it, Flexible Port Partitioning.


To make it easier for you, I’ve decided to compile a list of all these documents, videos and blogs in one place as a nice reference.  So without any more fanfare from me, here are the various docs that we have written:


SR-IOV Background, Introduction

·       SR-IOV Primer [Document]


·       SR-IOV Explanation [Video]



SR-IOV Configuration

·       Setting up Red Hat 5.4 Xen for SR-IOV using the Intel 82576 GbE [Blog]



·       Using Intel® Ethernet and the PCISIG* Single Root I/O Virtualization(SR-IOV) and Sharing Specification on Red Hat* Enterprise Linux* Technical Brief [Document]



·       How to Configure Intel® X520 Ethernet Server Adapter Based Virtual Functions on SuSE*Enterprise Linux Server* using Xen* [Document]





Intel Flexible Port Partitioning

·       Intel Flexible Port Partitioning using SR-IOV Demonstration

o [Video]


·       An Introduction to Intel Flexible Port Partitioning Using SR-IOV Technology Technical Brief [Document]



·       Configure QoS with Intel® Flexible Port Partitioning [Document]


Intel has a long history of delivering quality Ethernet products. Back in 1980, Intel teamed up with DEC* and Xerox* to publish the first Ethernet specification called DIX. The specs were later adopted by IEEE in 1982. So, Intel has been in the Ethernet business for 30 years!


Intel’s expertise in Ethernet includes a long line of Ethernet silicon and adapters. Early on, we branded our adapters with “PRO” as part of the name. The earliest use I could find of the “PRO” brand name dates back to the EtherExpress™ PRO/10 ISA adapters. The “PRO” name carried forward to many popular Intel® PRO/100 fast Ethernet and PRO/1000 gigabit Ethernet devices.


The Intel® PRO/1000 PT Quad Port Low Profile Server Adapter, which debuted in 2006, was the industry’s first low-profile quad-port NIC and the last to use “PRO” in the name. But the Intel® PRO/1000 PT Quad Port Low Profile Server Adapter was not the end of the line.


Building on our experience with both Ethernet and silicon, we continued to improve our designs. Even though the brand names no longer include “PRO” as part of the name, the newest adapters still have the same “PRO” quality and dependability, only better. The innovation has continued and includes the industry’s first integrated quad port controller with new features like virtualization.


So, if you are looking for the very latest, full-featured Intel® PRO/1000 adapters, you should be looking at the Intel® Ethernet I350 Server Adapter Family.

And for 10-Gigabit Ethernet you will want to check out our latest Converged Network adapters for the best solutions supporting unified networking. For familiar twisted-pair copper cable support that includes backwards compatibility with gigabit Ethernet, check out the Intel® Ethernet X540 Converged Network Adapter. For SFP+ solutions including direct-attach copper, short-range, and long-range support, check out the Intel® Ethernet X520 Converged Network Adapter Family.

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