During a short visit to the Cloud Expo conference in Santa Clara last week, I had conversations with both hardware and software companies about challenges associated with data center networking equipment.


A couple of Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) talked about the need to quickly bring-to-market low-cost appliances optimized for use in virtualized environments. More than just top-of-rack switches, these appliances need to perform a range of networking functions (switching, routing, load balancing, firewall etc). At the same time, they need to be managed remotely (via any one of a large number of data center configuration software packages) and incorporate the flexibility to dynamically reallocate processor resources between networking functions as well as between the control and data planes. Under ever-increasing cost pressure from data center operators, these NEPs need a flexible networking stack that maximizes the performance of their hardware platform while giving them the flexibility to select whichever processor architecture best matches their target price points.


While that represents a traditional application for 6WIND’s packet processing software, discussions with suppliers of data center hardware and software highlighted other related challenges. There’s a clear trend to deliver advanced packet processing functions (such as virtual routing, security, QoS etc) using dedicated packet processing blades based on commodity hardware platforms, rather than using high-priced networking equipment. These functions need to be provided in a fully-virtualized environment and must offer a high degree of scalability.


There’s clearly a wide range of networking challenges within the data center. What do you see as the most critical issues that need to be solved to ensure that end users enjoy the most cost-effective experience as they migrate their applications either to public or private clouds?