Intel Announces New SDN Designs, Healthy Earnings
Intel has announced a pair of reference designs that tap into software-defined networking (SDN), launching both a switch and server design that leverage OpenFlow and Open vSwitch protocols. Intel executives suggested they wouldn't sell the Open Networking Platform Switch and Server designs themselves, but make them available to third parties to help develop their own products. Software-defined networking arrives at an opportune time for Intel, a computing powerhouse that has thrived on clients’ need for microprocessors and data-center infrastructure. SDN, which separates the control plane of a switch and allows it to be controlled via a server or virtual machine, is a pitch that Intel can hit. Intel also reported first-quarter earnings April 16, with strong showings in the data center, weaker demand for PC-related products, and the chance to start picking up business within its Intel Architecture group—a grab-bag that covers everything from flash memory and set-top boxes to phone and tablet processors, as well as networking. Intel argues that the cost and complexity of networking equipment is increasing, outpacing those networks’ projected revenues, said Rose Schooler, a vice president in the Intel Architecture Group and the general manager of its communications and storage infrastructure business. "The traditional approaches are very black-box and proprietary," she added, with custom ASICs, form factors, and middleware choking out innovation and requiring specialized service and support. Intel is aiming SDN both at traditional server farms as well as service providers. Schooler insisted that SD reduces power and complexity, and puts innovation where service providers add the most value: in services. In an Intel SDN pilot with Verizon, the telco apparently reported a 90 percent reduction in the time to deployment of new services. Intel's open, top-of-rack switch design is built on the backbone of its Xeon microprocessors, its 89xx communications chipset, and the Intel FM 6700 Fulcrum switch. Atop that runs Wind River Linux, the embedded OS from Intel's Wind River division, OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, plus future open management APIs. The server/virtual switch design is similar, with a small-packet-optimized Data Plane Accelerated Open vSwitch and an Intel 82599 10-Gbit Ethernet controller added to the mix.