Cisco and Intel’s Work on Ethernet Advances Software Defined Infrastructure

Intel has had a long-standing collaboration with Cisco to advance Ethernet technology; a relationship that is growing stronger as both companies seek to evolve Ethernet to ensure that it meets the needs for next-generation data centers.

One indication of this increasing teamwork was the recent announcement that Cisco has joined Intel Network Builders, our ecosystem of companies collaborating to build SDN and NFV solutions. We recently published a white paper to our Network Builders website about our joint work to make NFV part of a flexible, open and successful transformation for service provider customers.

I saw more fruit from this partnership at the Cisco Live conference in San Diego, where the two companies worked together on important networking-related technology demonstrations.

The first demo showcased new NBASE-T technology, which allows a 10GBASE-T connection to negotiate links at 5Gb and 2.5Gb over a 100M CAT 5E cable. This capability is especially exciting for campus deployments and wireless access points.

Cisco and Intel have a long history of working together to ensure that our 10GBASE-T products work seamlessly together. And now in the data center we are seeing rapid growth in the deployments of this technology. In fact, recent market projections from Crehan Research show that the upgrades from 1GBASE-T to 10GBASE-T are driving the largest adoption phase ever for the 10GbE market. **

Ethernet is the Best Interconnect for SDI

Ethernet is the best option to be the leading interconnect technology in next-generation software defined infrastructure (SDI)-based data centers. With 40GbE and 100GbE options, Ethernet has the throughput for the most demanding data centers as well as the low latency needed for the real-time applications.

The next step is to virtualize the network and network functions. To that end, we created a technology demo showing Intel® Ethernet controllers in a service chaining application using Network Service Headers (NSH).

Cisco initially developed NSH, but it’s now working its way through the IEEE standardization process. NSH creates a virtual packet-processing pipeline on top of a physical network and uses a chaining header to direct packets to particular VM-based services. This service chaining is an important element in next-generation network functions virtualization (NFV) services.

This technology demonstration – which drew big crowds earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – pairs Cisco’s UCS platform with Intel’s Ethernet Converged Network Adapters XL710 and 100GbE Red Rock Canyon adapters.

Red Rock Canyon is our new multi-host controller that is under development. This device provides low-latency, high-bandwidth interfaces to Intel® Xeon processing resources. It also provides flexible Ethernet interfaces including 100GbE ports. Red Rock Canyon has advanced frame-processing features including tunneling and forwarding frames using network service chaining headers at full line rate up to 100Gbps.

We have two videos from Cisco Live, one of the NSH demo and one of the NBASE-T demo if you want to see these technologies in action.

The future for Ethernet in the evolving software-defined datacenter is bright and I look forward to continuing our work with Cisco to develop and promote the key technologies to meet the needs of this evolving market.