The OpenFlow standard for creating software-defined networks is still in its infancy. It’s not clear whether or not it will gain market traction, said panelists at the event sponsored by market watcher The Linley Group (Mountain View, California)
OpenFlow is still being used in test beds, not production environments, said David Malicoat, a distinguished engineer with Hewlett-Packard’s switch group. Some of the standard’s features require processing and memory features not in today’s ASICs, and it’s not clear in the short term how OpenFlow will deliver on its promise of simpler, lower cost nets, he said.
Anshul Sadana, a senior vice president of customer engineering at switch maker Arista Networks, agreed. “It’s not easy to get away from the existing protocols–they exist for a reason,” he said. “It’s not clear where the OpenFlow solution will land, but there’s a lot of buzz about it so we can’t ignore it,” he said.
OpenFlow ultimately aims to replace a variety of specialized data center systems and protocols with software applications. But in the foreseeable future those appliances such as firewalls, security and traffic management systems form a robust market that is attracting chip vendors such as Cavium, Freescale, LSI and the Netlogic division of Broadcom, said Bob Wheeler, a senior analyst with Linley Group.
For its part, Cavium announced its Octeon III, a 2.5 GHz, 28 nm chip that will come in versions with up to 48 MIPS64 cores, sampling late this year. The company claims it delivers four times the performance of its existing part used in a wide range of systems including routers, switches and wireless base stations.
Meanwhile Freescale announced two 28 nm additions to its QorIQ family. The T4240 and T4160 processors use up to 12 and 16 dual-threaded e6500 Power cores respectively, and both are set to sample this summer.
Both companies’ chips support a broad list of hardware accelerators for security and other functions including data compression. Both also support a broad suite of interfaces including PCI Express Gen 3.
Meanwhile, systems vendors said the move to 40 Gbit links on network switches has started. “Some of largest data center companies have targeted 40G, and as a result the volumes have already picked up and the technology’s here to stay,” said Sadana of Arista.
“It’s been a much milder transition from 10G to 40G compared to one to 10G, and much less pain than going all the way to 100G,” said Malicoat of HP.