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Last week at IDF, we took the wraps off of two exciting new products that OEMs and ODMs can use to develop switch systems for the emerging market for software-defined networks (SDN) in the data center.


At the chip level, we launched the new Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6700 series, which is a 10G/40G SDN-optimized switch family that provides up to 64 10GbE or up to 16 40GbE ports. 


The FM6700 series can support both SDN and legacy networks.  Thus it can be used in top-of-rack switch SDN applications in the data center, or in network appliances or video distribution switches (thanks to its built in load balancing features).


For all applications, the switch features a pioneering low-latency architecture, built on the programmable Intel® FlexPipe™ frame-processing pipeline and single output queued shared memory architecture.  Both of these technologies combine to deliver highly deterministic packet forwarding with a maximum layer 3 latency of about 400nS.


The switch supports NAT and IP tunneling features for use in both IP and SDN applications.  For the SDN networks, the FlexPipe frame processor can be used to parse and process SDN packets.  The switch also supports 4,000 complete OpenFlow 12-tuple table entries that can be searched in a single pass for added performance.  There are also flexible tagging and tunneling options, including the ability to provide both an SDN and tunneling proxy for connected hosts.


At the platform level, we’ve introduced Seacliff Trail, a top-of-rack switch network reference platform for OEMs and ODMs that is based on the FM6764.  It offers 48 SFP+ 10GBE ports and four QSFP+ 40GBE ports, and can drive up to 7m of direct attach copper without the need for additional PHY chips on the board. 


It’s an all-Intel platform as well with a control plane based on the Crystal Forest AMC module that features an Intel® Xeon® processor, Intel communications chipset and Intel® 82599 10GBE controller. Intel’s Wind River subsidiary provides the open and extensible software framework based on its Linux OS.  This provides both easy SDN integration and also direct API access to add third-party apps for rapid innovation.


Seacliff Trail is a major step forward in fulfilling Intel’s SDN vision of the next-generation of networking.  That vision combines standardized, high-volume hardware with an open and extensible software framework that allows OEMS/ODMs to add their own value-added functionality.


Last week we had good crowds coming to see these products at our IDF booth along with two sessions where we presented both the FM6700 series SDN features along with its features for server load balancing.. 

The Intel Developer Forum is this week and the excitement is high. We’ve talked a lot about the Intel® Switch and Router Division’s solutions for software-defined networks (SDN), but here’s a chance for IDF attendees to see them first-hand and talk to some of the brains behind the technology. 


Why SDN? As the enterprise data center has evolved into virtualized cloud datacenter, the supporting networks have grown increasingly complex. In many cases, it means that data center designers are bound to a single vendor because there is no interoperability for the advanced functionality required. SDN promises to provide the needed management without the vendor lock in.  SDN orchestrates the network from an independent software controller which allows datacenter operators to pick the best networking equipment for each part of the network. 


If you are going to IDF and want to hear more about the Intel SDN story, stop by booth (#1122) to see our new SDN-enabled Intel Ethernet FM6764 switch silicon first hand in a top of rack switch reference design code named Seacliff Trail.  Also, you can join us at the following presentations to learn more:


Enabling Cloud Networks with Software Defined Networking: As part of the Cloud Computing Evolution of the Data Center track at IDF you can hear from our own Mike Zeile on what switches need to deliver to enable the next generation of cloud network fabric using SDN.  This presentation will be on Sept. 13 at 10:15 a.m.


Server Load Balancing in the ToR Switch Using Intel Ethernet Switch Silicon: Server load balancing is critical in the modern data center to help distribute heavy loads among multiple servers to achieve faster response times.  In this presentation, SRD’s Oscar Ham will talk about the server load balancing features that are built into the Intel Ethernet Switch FM6000 chips and what that means for networks. This presentation will be on Sept. 13 at noon.


Poster Chat: And finally, you can come talk to me at a poster chat on how SDN and server load balancing enables cloud networks.  I’ll be at poster chat station #7 at 11:45 am and 3:00 pm on Sept. 12.


IDF promises to be a great show and a great opportunity to show just how Intel can help networking manufacturers to implement SDN in systems they sell to next-generation data centers.  And stay tuned here as well for more information on the new products that we’ll launch at IDF.

In my last blog post, I discussed virtualized network protocols NVGRE and VXLAN – two essential components in data centers that are transforming into virtualized environments. 


Another important component is balancing the traffic on each virtual server to optimize response time and overall resource loading.  Many data centers have installed expensive load balancing appliances in the network.  They are very surprised to find out that many of these same features are built into our Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6000 Series products.  Here’s a little bit more about how it works.


Load balancing in the FM6000 Series architecture is done using advanced symmetric hashing mechanisms along with network address translation (NAT) to convert the IP address of the load balancer to the IP address of the virtual machine (VM) after determining the optimal virtual machine (or virtual service) to process the request.  After the transaction is processed by the VM, the load balancer modifies the source IP address to its own address so that the client sees it as a single, monolithic server. 


The FM6000 also provides fine-grain bandwidth allocation and fail-over mechanisms to each egress port using a flexible hash-based load distribution architecture. This avoids round-robin service distribution schemes, which may be less than optimal, and provides the ability to monitor the health of VMs and virtual services, so that failed ones can be quickly removed from the resource pool.  These switches also come with connection persistence intelligence to know when not to load balance, as in the case of FTP requests that must stay connected to the same virtual service.


Some other load balancing functionality built into the switches includes:


Network Security:  The frame filtering and forwarding unit (FFU) inside FM6000 Series can be used for network security, in addition to frame forwarding. It can be configured using bit masks to read any part of the L2/L3/L4 header. If there is a match, the switch can route, deny, modify, count, log, change VLAN or change priority of the packet to protect the network.  The switch can also use access control lists to prevent denial of service attacks and other security violations.


Performance: The FM6000 series switches are the lowest latency switches on the market, which means they can connect to the network, to servers and to storage arrays with real-time performance. In addition, it’s extremely low L3 latency means that the load balancing and NAT functions act as a “bump on the wire”, minimizing the impact on network performance compared to coupling a ToR switch with a discrete load balancer.


Fail Over: FM6000 series chips use a link mask table to determine how to distribute the load across multiple egress ports. They also contain several mechanisms to detect link failure such as loss-of-signal (LOS) or CRC errors. As the packet header is processed, the forwarding unit resolves to the address of a pointer, which points to an entry in the mask table. If a link or connected device fails, this pointer can be quickly changed by software so that the failing link is no longer part of the load distribution group. Since distribution is flow based, only flows to the failed device will be affected.


As you can see, the FM6000 Series switches have full-featured, low latency load balancing capabilities, another feature that makes them the ideal solution for top-of-rack switch systems.

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