Software defined networking (SDN) is changing the way networks are organized and managed. Initial implementations have focused on large data centers with high-speed servers. To get the maximum benefits from SDN the technology needs to be scaled down to smaller data centers and systems at the edge of the network. The Intel® AtomTM processor C2000 and Intel® Xeon® processors E3-1200 share many features with the Intel Xeon processors used in high performance servers. These scalable solutions are ideal for implementing switches and other systems required to support SDN.


In this blog I am going to explore the benefits of using Intel Atom processor C2000 and Intel Xeon processors E3-1200 and show how they can reduce development time and increase performance for hardware platforms designed to support SDN. For this blog I am using examples from  Advantech a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance and ADI Engineering, an Associate member of the Alliance. The 250-plus members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel to create hardware, software, tools, and services to help speed embedded systems to market.


Software Defined Networking

SDN is a flexible network architecture that is centrally managed through an Orchestrator and a number of Controllers (see Figure 1). This allows administrators to dynamically adjust network-wide traffic flow across the underlying infrastructure to meet changing customer demands. The underlying infrastructure includes virtual or physical systems such as switches, cloud servers, network appliances, and media gateways. The SDN architecture can be expanded to cover wireless networking infrastructure including the enhanced packet core (EPC) and cloud radio access network (C-RAN).

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Figure 1. Software Defined Networking (Source: Intel)


SDN is vendor neutral and is based on open standards and open interfaces. The controllers communicate with the orchestrator using OpenStack and use OpenFlow to configure the routing tables in the underlying infrastructure. All the virtual and physical systems in an SDN network that are forwarding network traffic should have an OpenFlow interface.


Technology for SDN

SDN requires the latest processor technology. Virtualization, security and high-speed packet processing are all key requirements. SDN is implemented using virtual and physical platforms enabling agile network configuration. Secure communication is vital for SDN so efficient cryptographic performance is important. To meet network performance expectations the SDN infrastructure must deliver high-speed packet forwarding.


There a several Intel technologies that support these key requirements for SDN. Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) provides platform capability for the virtualized workloads and flexible resource management. The Intel® AES New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) accelerate data encryption/decryption. Intel® QuickAssist Technology provides hardware assist for efficient cryptographic performance. High performance packet forward is achieved on Intel® architecture processors by using the Intel® Data Plane Development Kit (Intel® DPDK), a set of source code programming libraries that accelerate basic packet processing functions.


The Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1265 v2 integrates four 3.5GHz Intel Xeon processor cores that support Intel AES-NI and Intel VT. The Intel Atom    processor C2758 integrates eight low-power Intel Silvermont microarchitecture cores with support for Intel AES-NI and Intel VT. The device also integrates Intel QuickAssist Technology. Both processors are supported by the Intel DPDK.


SDN in the Data Center

Network bandwidth in the data center is continuing to grow rapidly. Most high performance servers now have 10GbE interfaces. Rack mount servers are connected through a top of rack (ToR) switch that has Gigabit Ethernet or 10GbE connections to each server and 40GbE connections to the rest of the network.


Figure 2, shows the Advantech ESP-9212 ToR Switch which is optimized for SDN. The switch supports 44 10GbE optical or copper interfaces and six 40GbE optical interfaces providing a total forwarding bandwidth of 680Gbps. The switch has a dual redundant AC/DC power supply units and four hot swappable fan trays to support high availability applications.

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Figure 2. Advantech ESP-9212 Top of Rack Switch


Figure 3 shows the main components of the Advantech ESP-9212 ToR Switch. The Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1265 v2 is used to support OpenFlow, manage the switch and support network applications. The ESP-9212 has two internal 2.5” solid state disks (SSD) providing 128GB of storage.


Figure 3. Advantech ESP-9212 Components


SDN at The Edge

To get the greatest benefit from SDN the solution must be extended beyond the data center core into the rest of the network. The ADI Engineering Gigabit SDN/OpenFlow Development Kit (GSDK) is an open, ready to run solution that supports OpenFlow 1.3 (see Figure 4). The development kit enables OEMs to quickly evaluate, develop, and deploy new classes of low-cost SDN-enabled systems at the edge of the network. This will enable SDN adoption beyond the data center in cost sensitive applications (<$200) including small/medium enterprises, industrial and military/aerospace.


Figure 4. ADI Engineering Gigabit SDN/OpenFlow Development Kit (GSDK)


Figure 5 shows a block diagram of the ADI engineering GSDK. At the center is the Intel Atom processor C2758. This runs the operating system, OpenFlow enabled soft switch and other application software. The system also includes 10GbE and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and IEEE802.11n WiFi radio interface.

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Figure 5. ADI Engineering GDSK Block Diagram

The GSDK comes with the LINC soft switch pre-installed. LINC is an open-source implementation of the latest Open Network Foundation (ONF) OpenFlow 1.3 specification. LINC is available free from


Scalable SDN Solutions

This blog has covered two examples of OpenFlow enabled platforms that can be used to cost effectively deploy SDN. The Intel Xeon and Intel Atom processors share many features with the processors used in high performance servers and networking systems. This is enabling OEMs to scale SDN across a huge range of applications.


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Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. ADI Engineering is an Associate member of the Alliance.


Simon Stanley

Roving Reporter (Intel® Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Principal Consultant, Earlswood Marketing

Follow me on Twitter: @simon_stanley