Proud to be on the CloudNFV™ team
Now that the details of the CloudNFV initiative have been announced, we’re proud to confirm that 6WIND is one of the founding members. When Tom Nolle, President of CIMI Corporation, first invited us to participate, we immediately saw the potential for this group of vendors to rapidly introduce a demonstration platform for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and thereby accelerate the deployment of NFV by service providers. We appreciate the opportunity to work with our CloudNFV partners to demonstrate how our technology solves critical data plane performance challenges in NFV.
In a quote that he provided for our press release, Tom stated that “The success of NFV or the virtualization of switches or routers using SDN is totally dependent on the data-path performance of the VMs used to host the functions. The performance of the data path can make or break the business case for any network-virtual applications. 6WIND is the industry leader in data path acceleration, and also the first vendor to step forward with an NFV mission statement. There's nobody with better credentials to optimize density and performance for CloudNFV.”
In this post, I’ll explain the key benefits that the 6WINDGate™ networking software, running on Intel® Architecture platforms, provides for the CloudNFV initiative.
Leveraging technology proven in physical infrastructure
6WIND is uniquely positioned to provide data plane solutions for CloudNFV because 6WINDGate is already widely used in physical networking equipment deployed in telecom infrastructure worldwide. Through high-performance packet processing, 6WINDGate enables service providers to maximize the number of subscribers supported per blade, in applications such as LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) equipment.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve extended our technology to incorporate solutions for networking performance bottlenecks associated with virtualization elements such as hypervisors and virtual switches, running on Intel® Architecture platforms, so that TEMs and service providers can now adopt our software, already proven in physical networking implementations, to maximize the performance of their Virtual Networking Functions (VNFs) in NFV deployments.
6WINDGate fits in two places within the CloudNFV ecosystem: first, it maximizes the switching performance of the virtual switch that provides high-bandwidth network traffic to the VNFs running in Virtual Machines (VMs), thereby increasing the aggregated bandwidth delivered to the VMs and, second, it accelerates the data plane performance of each VNF.
Data plane performance challenges in CloudNFV
At this point in the evolution of NFV, most vendors are working on aspects relating to network management and orchestration. This is also a key focus for CloudNFV and the approach is explained well in the white paper available on the website. This emphasis makes perfect sense given the extreme complexity of legacy telecom networks and the challenges of migrating these control-related systems to a completely new software-based architecture. And, of course, the concept of “Carrier Grade reliability” reflects the expectations that we all have for the constant availability of network services.
Additionally, though, there are fundamental data plane issues that must be addressed in order for any CloudNFV implementation to be cost-effective.
The first bottleneck is the software virtual switch (vSwitch) running on the server platform. This vSwitch must provide sustained, aggregated high-bandwidth network traffic to the Virtual Network Functions (VNFs). At the same time, the performance of (secure) VM-to-VM communications must be maximized.
Both these requirements are necessary to ensure that CloudNFV deployments are cost-effective when compared with traditional network infrastructure based on physical switches.
Unfortunately, standard virtual switches such as the open-source Open vSwitch (OVS) do not deliver adequate performance or scalability to address these needs.
The second bottleneck is the performance of the VNFs themselves. Service providers will need their VNFs to deliver cost-performance that is comparable to that achieved by equivalent physical implementations. Otherwise, their NFV deployments won’t be cost-effective and there will be no ROI justification for a transition to NFV.
VNF performance, though, is constrained by two factors. One is the poor performance and limited scalability of standard Operating System networking stacks. The other is the limitation on bandwidth for communication outside the VM that is imposed by standard hypervisors.
Within CloudNFV deployments, the 6WINDGate networking software addresses the two performance bottlenecks described above.
First, 6WINDGate accelerates the virtual switch that switches network traffic to the VMs in which the VNFs are instantiated.
When used to accelerate the standard Open vSwitch (OVS), 6WINDGate delivers a 10x improvement in switching performance. This typically results in at least a 3x improvement in the number of VMs that can be instantiated per blade (the VM density), with even greater improvements achieved when the VNFs require sustained high-bandwidth traffic.
As part of improving OVS performance, 6WINDGate also accelerates secure tunneling protocols such as IPsec, GRE, NVGRE, VLAN and VxLAN which are required OVS features for supporting high-bandwidth, secure VM-to-VM traffic.
Second, 6WINDGate accelerates the performance of VNFs. Thanks to its fast path data plane architecture, 6WINDGate typically delivers 10x the performance of the standard Linux networking stack, with no changes required to the Linux kernel. This performance scales linearly with the number of cores configured to run the fast path. 6WINDGate includes a comprehensive set of networking protocols, for example PPP (used in a virtual Broadband Access Server or “vBRAS”), firewall and IKE (used in security gateways) and TCP termination (used in WAN Optimization appliances).
As a result of optimizations for virtualized environments, 6WINDGate delivers comparable performance running under a hypervisor to that achieved when running in a physical implementation. This enables service providers to obtain best-in-class cost-performance from their VNFs, such as firewalls and security gateways.
In both these two CloudNFV use cases, 6WINDGate runs within the KVM hypervisor and Linux, under the control of OpenStack, on the Intel® Architecture-based Dell server that comprises the overall hardware deployment platform.
Open standards and compatibility with legacy software
When 6WINDGate is used to accelerate OVS (the first bottleneck described above), no changes are required to the standard OVS code itself. 6WINDGate intercepts packets that would normally be processed in the (slow) OVS data plane, processing them in the 6WINDGate data plane instead.
In the case of VNF acceleration (bottleneck #2), 6WINDGate is fully compatible with standard Linux networking APIs (Netfilter, Netlink etc.). This means that no modifications are required to the VNF applications themselves in order to take advantage of the performance improvement provided by 6WINDGate.
Finally, 6WINDGate is fully-compatible with the OpenFlow protocol used in many NFV architectures.
As explained in the CloudNFV announcement, demonstrations will start with a series of public and open webinars beginning in late September and include live, in-person demos conducted at various industry events through the end of the year. We look forward to participating in these events. Hope to see you there!