The New IP: An Open and Powerful Paradigm

As part of the launch of the Intel® Open Network Platform Server Reference Design, we’ve asked key development partners to blog on their work with Intel on this reference architecture and their views on network transformation.  Today’s blog is by Kelly Herrell, vice president and general manager of Brocade’s Software Business Unit.

For years networking was a static model: deploy discrete, purpose-built boxes from your vendor of choice because they were “good enough” for the known capacity or requirements, and live with that choice for a long time.

Today, choosing this static model is like choosing immobility as a form of transportation.  It’s not a matter of degree; it’s a binary decision that guarantees your network will fail to meet your new and rapidly changing business demands.

This new reality is of paramount importance if the network is your profit center (a telco, for example) or if the network supports your profit center (a cloud provider, XaaS, financial services, etc).  In these environments the pace of change is unparalleled – the explosion in mobile traffic, application growth, implications of big data – all of these dynamics require an agile, malleable network architecture.

Just as virtualization is the “new normal” in compute environment, so it is becoming the requirement for the network.  This forceful decoupling of software from hardware in system design is rapidly ushering in a new era of creative opportunities in IT design.  For customers and vendors alike, networking now requires “out of the box” thinking (pun intended)… it’s time to ditch the dedicated, purpose-built device mindset.

Enter the era of The New IP.  SDN and NFV are based on new modern architectures and applications that enable the network to become more of a fluid, automated and elastic environment. Loosely coupled with a scalable underlay fabric, this new usage of software networking is key to enabling The New IP.

The power of The New IP lies in the nature of the demand itself.  NFV is a perfect example:  it’s a demand for openness, modularity, flexibility and a radically better total cost model.  These demand attributes are the photographic negative of the way network infrastructure used to be designed and delivered.  The New IP isn’t an incremental change, it’s a step-function in the network’s ability to support business demands.

As the mindset shifts to The New IP, one discovers that technologies are ready today to support this powerful movement.  Only a few years ago it was not possible to get the requisite packet performance from a COTS server, so the idea of running Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) on them was moot.  Those days are far behind us now; for example in August, Brocade and Telefónica established some impressive benchmarks for NFV. As part of a joint lab test, the two companies and Intel achieved 80Gbps with the Brocade Vyatta 5600 vRouter on an off-the-shelf Intel processor-based server.  The head of Telefónica’s NFV Reference Lab, said Francisco-Javier Ramón, sums up the impact of these tests perfectly:

"In less than two hours, we deployed the Brocade Vyatta 5600 vRouter from a memory stick and completed our performance tests in our NFV Reference Lab. These results are allowing us, as network operators, to aggressively change our perspective regarding what is possible with software-driven networking in order to accelerate the adoption and deployment of these revolutionary technologies.”

This performance is by no means an accident as Brocade and Intel have worked closely for years to drive aggressive improvements both on software networking and Intel architecture fronts. As NFV continues to gain traction, this type of collaboration will begin to expand into a broad, open ecosystem. As an example, this summer Brocade, Intel, Overture Networks and Wind River all joined forces to focus on furthering the capabilities and hardening of NFV solutions.

The NFV revolution is happening very quickly. In late 2012 the now-famous white paper introduced “NFV” into our vocabulary. Last Mobile World Congress showed NFV demonstrations spread across the vast show floor. Service Providers are issuing RFIs at an increasing rate and now the Intel Developer Forum is highlighting real use-cases with powerful capabilities. This has all happened in less than two years.

We’re at the beginning of a 10-year cycle of change.  Our heads are collectively now out of the box, looking up to see where we’re going to take this exciting revolution.  The New IP is an open, powerful paradigm that is here today, and here to stay.