Chip Makers Build SDN Into Microprocessors

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Semiconductor companies including Freescale and Broadcom are supporting software-defined networking efforts with chip-level technogies

Freescale Semiconductor and Broadcom are unveiling new software and interfaces designed to make it easier for organisations to make the move to software-defined networks (SDN).

The two companies announced their respective offerings on 3 March on the first day of the Open Networking Summit 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The products are intended to enable businesses to leverage the vendors’ silicon and software and the latest OpenFlow protocols to adopt software-defined networking (SDN) to make their infrastructures more programmable and flexible.

Dynamic networking

SDN and close relative network-function virtualisation (NFV) promise to create networks that are more dynamic, automated and cost-effective by moving network intelligence and services from complex and expensive physical switches and routers and putting them into software that runs atop the underlying hardware.

Network - (c) maxuser, Shutterstock 2013Freescale is rolling out its VortiQa SDN solutions, which include the VortiQa open network director and switch software that is optimised to run on the company’s QorlQ multicore communications chips. The solution also includes data plane software that is preintegrated with commercial-grade OpenFlow to help system makers develop solutions for SDN environments.

It gives the equipment manufacturers and original design manufacturers (ODMs) the building blocks they need to create such networking gear as routers and gateways that run on Freescale technology and are compatible with OpenFlow 1.3 and can fit into SDN infrastructures.

There also is an embedded SDN controller implemented in C language that is aimed at embedded systems, according to Freescale officials.


The VortiQa offering is only the latest effort by Freescale in the burgeoning SDN space, according to Michael O’Donnell, director of software business development at Freescale.

“Freescale has been engaged on SDN since early days, tracking the market trend and technical evolution,” O’Donnell said in an email to eWEEK. “The announcement [at the Open Networking Summit] amplifies Freescale’s activities to date and introduces a commercial software platform to exercise SDN on existing QorIQ silicon platforms and readies the market for the SDN-optimised [Freescale] Layerscape platform.”

Freescale previously had offered proof-of-concept software for the control and data planes, and proved interoperability with other networking vendor solutions that support OpenFlow, he said. The company also has been an active member of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Freescale will demonstrate its QorlQ communications processors using the VortiQa SDN solutions at the show this week.

The VortiQa open network director and switch software will be available this month.

Broadcom’s OF-DPA specification

For its part, Broadcom is unveiling the OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA) v1.0 specification, software and API for the ONF’s OpenFlow 1.3.1 switch. The SDN interface is an implementation of the OpenFlow 1.3.1 protocol that is optimised for Broadcom’s StrataXGS Ethernet switch offerings. OEMs and ODMs can use the OF-DPA software and API capabilities to build networking systems that leverage Broadcom’s StrataXGS silicon, according to company officials.

“The openly published OF-DPA specification, software and API exposes OpenFlow compliant programming constructs over Broadcom’s StrataXGS Ethernet switch series,” Ram Velaga, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s network switch business, said in a statement. “By mapping the OpenFlow 1.3.1 pipeline to a high bandwidth and high density switch silicon like the StrataXGS Trident Series, we are enabling SDN applications to achieve high performance and scale.”

A beta version of OF-DPA v1.0 is available now from GitHub, and generally availability is expected this month.

SDN has a promising future as organisations look to deal with such trends as big data, cloud computing, greater worker mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and video, which require networks that can rapidly adapt to changing demands and can be programmed in minutes and seconds rather than weeks and months. Interest from web-based companies like Google and Facebook also is helping drive the technology. Infonetics Research analysts in December said they expect the SDN market will hit $3.1 billion by 2017.

SDN interest

A recent survey by Quinstreet Enterprise, which publishes eWEEK, found that there is a growing interest among organisations to bring SDN into their environments, but that it’s still an emerging technology that will take awhile to see widespread adoption.

The survey – “2014 Data Centre Outlook: Data Centre Transformation – Where Is Your Enterprise?” – also found that most businesses that are looking to deploy SDNs are opting for larger, established networking vendors that can offer solutions on converged infrastructures rather than smaller, software-only companies. That’s good news for vendors like Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, VMware and Dell, which are building out their solutions for SDN and network-function virtualisation (NFV) while competing with a range of smaller startups that also are looking to gain traction in the space.

SDN also is getting the attention of various industry groups – including ONF and the OpenDaylight Project – that are looking to create standards around the networking trend.

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Originally published on eWeek.

Originally published on eWeek.

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