By Rene Torres
In 2012, seven service providers joined forces to publish the first network functions virtualization (NFV) whitepaper detailing how service providers could lower costs and more easily improve their networks by virtualizing communications applications on general-purpose servers.
Today, that effort has grown dramatically. Nearly 40 leading service providers, and 220 companies worldwide, are part of the NFV Industry Specification Group at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
This unprecedented level of development and collaboration has seen significant contributions from open source and open standards efforts, including OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and the Open Networking Foundation – just to name a few. Indeed, many of the key NFV technologies and use cases have emerged from these efforts, which include representation from across the industry.
The Intel® Open Network Platform Server Reference Design (Intel® ONP Server Reference Design), which we launched on Tuesday as part of the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 v3 announcement, is a culmination of Intel’s embrace of these open standards and open software efforts and our development of a broad ecosystem of communications industry innovators. It’s an open, standards-based reference architecture that brings together key hardware and software elements in a design that’s optimized for NFV and software-defined networking (SDN). We believe providing the industry with reference design like this will help drive ecosystem innovation and accelerate proofs of concept, trials, and deployments.
More Than a Reference Design
But the term “reference design” doesn’t convey the flexibility that’s built into the Intel ONP Server Reference Design. It’s really more a set of tools and designs that telecom or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can use individually, interchangeably, or in combination with their own software or hardware to build innovative virtual networking products.
The Intel ONP Server Reference Design is powered by the latest Intel® processor and networking products and technologies, including the Intel Xeon processor E5 v3 and 10 and 40 Gigabit Intel® Ethernet Controllers, and Intel® QuickAssist Technology, which delivers hardware acceleration for specialized processing tasks such as encryption or compression.
An open virtual switch (vSwitch) built on the Intel® Data Plane Development Kit, or Intel® DPDK, delivers data to and from those virtual appliances up to 10 times faster than a non-accelerated open vSwitch.
There are also optimizations for OpenStack, compatibility with OpenDaylight, and Intel DPDK, Intel QuickAssist Technology, and Intel Ethernet drivers to maximize the performance of virtual appliances running on the platform.
The industry is innovating on Intel Architecture
Over last year, we’ve worked with our partners to develop innovative SDN and NFV solutions on Intel architecture-based servers, including the Intel ONP Server Reference Design, through the Intel® Network Builders program. Over 85 communications industry leaders have joined the program since its inception a year ago, and in that time we’ve created numerous POCs, trials, and reference architectures. Nearly 30 partners are joining us at IDF this week in our Intel Network Builders community, and even more participated in our NFV Summit, discussing the recent developments in NFV.
Service providers are deploying NFV on Intel Architecture-based systems
While many companies are trialing SDN and NFV, some are already deploying these technologies on open source solutions running on Intel architecture-based systems.
One great example of the power of this type of an open solution is a project that Spanish service provider Telefónica is conducting in Brazil to simplify the consumer premises equipment (CPE) it provides to its customers.
The company is moving all specialized networking capabilities, such as network address translation, DHCP, firewalls, and others, from dedicated CPE appliances to virtual appliances running on Intel Xeon processor-based servers in the carrier’s network.
Not only does this dramatically reduce the cost of the CPE, Telefónica believes it will be able to provide new customer services in half the time it currently takes. The solution leverages Intel DPDK technology as well as technical guidance and support from Intel in developing and testing the applications.
With the Intel ONP Server Reference Architecture, we’re making it easier to develop, test, and deploy NFV solutions such as these. Over the next several days, you’ll be able to read blogs from some of our key development partners, who will share their thoughts on the network transformation that’s taking place and how they’re collaborating with Intel to develop innovative and exciting new products.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Intel ONP Server Reference Architecture, see this white paper: Intel® Open Network Platform Server Reference Architecture: SDN and NFV for Carrier-Grade Infrastructure and Cloud Data Centers
 The Intel ONP Server Reference Architecture Release 1.1 documentation with performance benchmarks and system configurations can be accessed at: https://01.org/sites/default/files/page/intel_onp_for_servers_release_1.1_solutions_guide_v1.1.pdf