With this week’s announcement that 6WIND has become a member of the Open Networking Foundation, it’s an appropriate time to explore the critical networking performance challenges that are faced by data center operators and discuss how the 6WINDGate™ software addresses these problems.

The traditional data center networking architecture, which was based on segregated aggregation, access and virtual switch layers, is migrating to a flat networking model in which the aggregation and access functions are consolidated onto physical and/or virtual appliances that use the same hardware platforms as the application servers. At the same time, the application servers now embed more and more Virtual Machines (VMs), becoming network nodes themselves and implementing virtual switches.

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For the aggregation and access layers, functions such as ADCs, firewalls, IPSs and UTMs require a very high performance, rich networking software layer able to distribute high bandwidth network traffic to a large number of endpoints (application servers and appliance VMs) with very low latency. In addition, a single instance of a virtual network appliance must be fully scalable across processors, blades and racks, avoiding the cost and complexity of instantiating multiple virtual appliances as bandwidth requirements increase.

The networking stack within a standard Operating System such as SMP Linux is unable to deliver the performance or scalability required for these network appliances. To address these needs, specialized packet processing software is required and the 6WNDGate software has proven to be an ideal solution. Delivering 10x the performance of a standard Linux networking stack, with unlimited scalability and full support for standard hypervisors, 6WINDGate enables the developers of both physical and virtual network appliances to deliver products optimized for emerging data center architectures and based on general-purpose processors.

In the case of the application server blades, the new data center architecture brings four major networking challenges:

First, the number of VMs per blade is increasing rapidly, leveraging on-going improvements in the performance of the processors used on those blades. Today, a typical server blade hosts around 20 VMs, with that number expected to grow to hundreds within a few years. Because of this growth, the data center network needs to expand beyond its current limit at the Top-of-Rack, to the point where a virtual switch on each server blade is used to distribute the increasing volume of network traffic to virtualized applications. This implies the need for a high-performance virtual switch solution that is not constrained by the I/O performance limitations of standard hypervisors.

Second, adding to the networking load now placed on server blades, multi-tenant architectures serving applications for multiple users require traffic engineering (ACL, tunneling, QoS etc.) to be performed at the server edge in order to provide users with individual, differentiated services. This requires advanced packet processing functions running at high performance in a virtualized environment.

A third challenge for virtual switches is that the growing number of VMs per blade makes high-bandwidth VM-to-VM communication (VM2VM) mandatory. However the standard hypervisor virtual switch that allows communications between VMs limits VM-to-VM bandwidth and does not scale well.

Finally, in order to isolate and secure VM2VM in a multi-tenant architecture, VM2VM requires routing, firewalling and load balancing services that extend beyond the basic Layer 2 features provided by a typical virtual switch.

As in the case of the network appliances, a standard Operating System networking stack does not provide the performance or features to address these virtual switch challenges. The 6WINDGate software, however, provides the required advanced networking protocols and hypervisor performance enhancements, while delivering the raw networking performance necessary to accommodate ongoing growth in both North-South and East-West traffic.

By addressing these critical problems in the aggregation, access and virtual switch layers, 6WNDGate is rapidly gaining traction as a solution for data center networking subsystems.

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Other reasons for the use of 6WINDGate in these applications include its compatibility with emerging control plane standards such as OpenFlow and OpenStack, as well as its integrated support for High Availability configurations that provide Carrier Grade reliability for enterprise-class data centers.

The networking data plane is the basic foundation on which advanced data center architectures are built and high-performance data plane software such as 6WINDGate is key to the overall throughput and latency of the data center. 6WINDGate interfaces efficiently and synchronizes seamlessly with advanced control plane architectures, providing operators with the full benefits of an SDN implementation.

From more information, please request the white paper “High-Performance Networking Software for Cloud Infrastructure”, available here.