Software-Defined

Kelly.Herrell

The Era of the Network-Centric Server

by Kelly.Herrell on ‎09-11-2013 06:10 AM (485 Views)

When we founded Vyatta in 2006 the idea of using an x86 server as network infrastructure was pure folly to just about everyone. I’ll never forget the ridicule of one naysayer who in 2008 was quoted in the press as saying, “I would NEVER put a PC in my network.”

 

As it turns out, the world’s largest semiconductor vendor had plans that guy didn’t know about. Big, non-obvious plans executed quietly over the years to avoid attracting too much attention… a silicon crocodile easing itself toward the beach…

 

Intel played from their strength as the industry’s dominant processing platform, slowly absorbing networking as a native workload into that silicon architecture. With each turn of their x86 foundry, servers became better packet-processing machines. Those servers kept shipping in mass volumes, and in a short period of time Intel had blanketed the world with Network-Centric Servers.

 

(Approximate Release Date)

2010

2011

2012

2013

Xeon Platform

Nehalem

Westmere

Sandy Bridge

Ivy Bridge

Cores

8

12

16

20

Packets/Second1

29 Million

38 Million

115 Million

And more!2

% of Servers Shipping w/ 10Gb/s NICs3

Negligible

10%

21%

35%

 

Putting this throughput into context, 14.4 million packets at 64-byte size is line-rate 10Gb/s performance. So the faster packet-processing innards quickly red-lined the basic 1Gb/s NIC, making it the new bottleneck. By next year it’s estimated that the average server will be shipping with 10Gb/s NICs.

 

And there you have it: The Network-Centric Server. They’re here, they’re incredibly low-cost compared to proprietary network boxes and customers have already begun to leverage them aggressively.

 

The adoption started becoming obvious a couple of years ago and now its hit deafening levels. Tier 1 Cloud Providers - such as Rackspace, SoftLayer and Amazon - are delivering Network-as-a-Service powered by software infrastructure on servers. All of the world’s top Telcos have formally stated their demand for NFV, which is in essence networking software running on servers. Enterprises are also starting to make the shift. And just in case you missed it, last week at VMworld, VMware finally made it clear they’re reaching for Cisco’s artificially inflated wallet.

 

The Network-Centric Server is about more than just slashing 90% of the CapEx out of the system. From the strategic / macro perspective, it ushers in a decomposition of system architectures in the same way that happened to compute in the 1990s. That technology disruption shattered and reconstructed an industry three times larger than the network industry. Now it’s our turn.

 

The crocodile’s now on the beach… and it will not be denied its meal.


Footnotes

1 Approximate, based on figures from Intel and Vyatta testing

2 Not yet disclosed, but hold onto your hat

3 Source: Dell’Oro