Performance and power-efficiency are more important than ever for network infrastructure. Traffic is exploding and becoming more complex as video and web traffic increasingly dominate the network. Meanwhile, the increasing cloud connectivity of everything from enterprises source to consumer devices is creating a tempting target for hackers. At the same time, cost pressures are causing customers to make ever-greater demands on energy efficiency.


The Intel® Xeon® processors provide a number of features that can help you address these challenges, including:


  • Powerful multi-core architectures for intensive packet-processing and security
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) for flexible, efficient hardware utilization
  • Advanced power management technologies for efficient processing
  • Application-specific hardware extensions for signal processing and encryption


Multi-core performance is particularly important for today’s complex networking applications. The latest processors like the Intel® Xeon® processor 5500/5600 series provide up to 12 cores in a dual-socket configuration (Figure 1), provide impressive performance on communications tasks.



Figure 1. The Intel® Xeon® processor 5500/5600 series.


Intel® VT can play a critical role in unlocking this performance by enabling multiple OSs to run on the same platform. Among other uses, Intel VT makes it possible to consolidate functions that previously required separate hardware onto a single platform—a technique that has been shown to reduce energy use by as much as 80%. To learn more about Intel VT and its applications, check out my recent intro to virtualization blog.


You can access this power-efficient performance with a wide range of products from Intel® Embedded Alliance , whose 200-plus members collaborate closely with Intel to create optimized hardware, software, tools, and services to help you speed designs to market. Many of these offerings are focused on maximizing packet processing performance. For example, the Wind River Network Acceleration Platform is designed to provide scalable, optimized multi-core packet processing. 6WIND offers a similar packet processing solution that (among other benefits) integrates with Qosmos Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and Network Intelligence technology.


On the hardware front, solutions are available from a wide range of Alliance members, such as Emerson Network Power, Advantech, Kontron and RadiSys—all of whom recently participated in the webinar 40G webinar and Beyond: Next-Gen Network Design with AdvancedTCA. You can also find solutions from these companies in the article Deep Packet Inspection in LTE Networks.


DPI is just one example of the many ways you can apply the performance of Intel Xeon processors. I recently posted an overview of communications applications with Intel Xeon processors, but it’s worth revisiting some of those applications here and highlighting a few additional use cases. Let’s start by filling out a few more details on DPI. The key to enabling DPI on Intel Xeon processors is moving the packet processing into the fast path so more processor cycles are available for DPI. The article Fast Path Packet Processing explains how you can accomplish this first step, while the white paper High-performance, integrated packet processing and DPI solutions for LTE lays out the details of DPI and several common use cases.


Network security is another area where power-efficient, cost-effective performance is a key requirement. The article Scalable Performance for Unified Threat Management lays out one excellent example of how Intel Xeon processors can meet this need by offering flexible software support. For further reading on this topic, I recommend the article Versatile Network Security Devices,which highlights the role virtualization plays in enhancing flexibility. Finally, the white paper

Packet Processing Software for Network Security provides a good general review of techniques for achieving high throughput and flexibility at low cost.


Of course, all that network traffic has to come from somewhere, so let’s take a moment to consider servers. One of the key benefits of Intel Xeon processors is their ability to consolidate multiple workloads onto a single platform. This capability is a big plus for applications like media servers that require a combination of application, control plane, packet, and signal processing. In fact, it is now possible to provide all of these services on commercial servers—see the article

Enterprise Media Server Gets Carrier-Class Performance for details. Servers also have many roles to play in “the cloud”, and Intel Xeon processor-based ATCA hardware can fill many of these roles. To learn more, see the white paper ATCA in the Cloud and the webinar Cloud Computing for Network Equipment.


workload_consolidation.pngThe links I’ve listed here only scratch the surface of what the Alliance has to offer. For more on building flexible networking solutions, see


Emerson Network Power, Advantech, Kontron and RadiSys are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Wind River is an Associate member of the Alliance. 6WIND is an Affiliate member of the Alliance and Qosmos is a General member.




Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston