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Optimize Your Software-Defined Network by Hardware Requirements

Software-based techniques are transforming networking. Commercial off-the-shelf hardware is finding a place in several networking use cases. However, high-performance hardware is also an important part of a successful software-defined networking (SDN). As you optimize your networks using SDN tools and complementary technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV), an important step is to strategically assess your hardware needs based on the functions and performance requirements. These need to be aligned with your intended business outcome for individual applications and services.

Two Categories of High Performance Hardware

  • Network hardware that utilizes purpose-built designs. These often involve specialized Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)s to achieve significantly higher performance than what is possible or economically feasible using commercial off-the-shelf servers that are based on state of the art, x86-based, general purpose processors.
  • Network hardware that uses standard x86 servers that is enhanced to provide high performance and predictable operation for example, via special software techniques that bypass hypervisors, virtualization environments, and operating systems.

Where to Deploy Network Functions
Can virtualized network functions be deployed like cloud-based applications? No. There is a big difference between deploying network functions as software modules on x86 general purpose servers and using a common cloud computing model to implement network virtualization. Simply migrating existing network functions to general purpose servers without due regard to all the network requirements leads to dramatically uneven and unpredictable performance. This unpredictability is mainly due to data plane workloads being often I/O bound and/or memory bound and software layers containing important configuration details that may impact performance.
These issues are not specifically about hardware but how the software handles the whole environment. Operating systems, hypervisors, and other infrastructure that is not integrated into best practices for data plane applications will continue to contribute to unpredictable performance.

Bandwidth and CPU Needs

Optimization 10.20

A good way to begin to assess hardware requirements is to examine network functions in two dimensions: I/O bandwidth or throughput needs, and computational power needs. In considering which network function to virtualize and where to virtualize it, CPU load required and bandwidth load required throughout different layers of the network can help determine that some but not all network functions are suitable for virtualization.

Applications with lower I/O bandwidth and low-to-high CPU requirements may be most appropriate for virtualized deployment on optimized x86 servers. Applications with higher I/O bandwidth and low-to-high CPU requirements may be best deployed on specialized high-performance hardware with specialized silicon. Many other factors may play a role in determining what hardware to use for which applications, including cost, user experience, latency, networking performance, network predictability, and architectural preferences.
Service-Network Abstraction is Key
Additionally, you might not need high performance hardware for certain functions initially. But as such a particular function scales, it might require a high performance platform to meet its performance specifications, or it might be more economical on a purpose-built platform. So you might start out with commercial off-the-shelf hardware and then transfer the workload to the high performance hardware later. If you have focused on establishing a clean abstraction of the services from the underlying hardware infrastructure using SDN principles, the network deployment can be more easily changed or evolved independently of the upper services and applications. This is the true promise of SDN.
Read more about how to assess hardware performance requirements in your SDN in the Cisco® white paper “High-Performance Hardware: Enhance Its Use in Software-Defined Networking.” You can find it here: “Do You Know your Hardware Needs?” along with other useful information.

Do you have questions or comments? Tweet us at @CiscoSP360

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Academia and Industry Come Together For The 1st Annual IoTWF Research Symposium

This year we launched the first annual Research Symposium at the IoT World Forum in Chicago. This Symposium brought together scholars, industry leaders and visionaries from across the world to discuss how academia and industry can partner to address the challenges and the opportunities that IoT presents.

We were delighted to be joined by impressive speakers. CEO of Enduring Hydro and former Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy Dr. Kristina Johnson,  Stanford University Professor Balaji Prabakar, and World Bank Senior Transport Specialist Dr. Shomik Mehndiratta offered their perspectives on how IoT can improve our cities and societies by transforming how we approach everything from transportation to energy. Purdue University Professor Douglas Comer helped us understand what is required to make IoT interoperable. Read More »

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#NCSAM: Cisco’s Cyber Security Story

As National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) arrives, now is a good time to look at the rapid expansion of information growth. We believe that cyber security centers around an important question that all who serve, protect and educate should consider – if you knew you were going to be compromised, would you prepare security differently?

It’s no longer a matter of “if” an outside party will infiltrate a system, but “when.” We read about new threats in the news every day, and it’s important to consider innovation when it comes to protecting our most precious assets and information.

We look at preparedness from three angles: what it takes to manage security before an attack, how to react during a breach and what to do in the aftermath. Security professionals need to evolve their strategy from a point-in-time approach to a continuous model that addresses the full continuum.

The Cisco approach is visibility-driven, threat-focused and platform-based. By performing live policy and attack demonstrations, organizations can help to ensure that they are prepared for what may come across multiple platforms. Read More »

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IPv6 First-Hop-Security

If you’ve worked with networking sometime in the last decade, I’m sure you’ve heard of this thing called IPv6. IPv6 has been around for quite a while, but it seems to be growing increasingly more popular as of late.
My focus on this article will be some of the challenges with security and IPv6, primarily those that Cisco IPv6 First-Hop-Security (FHS) solves.

Several times I’ve found myself looking at the network traffic traversing a customer’s network, asking if they use IPv6.
Unfortunately, most of the times the answer is no, even though I can see the Link-local and multicast addresses flying by my screen.
When I proceed to ask if they’ve added any security measurements in the network to protect against IPv6 attacks, the answer is mostly: “Why would we need any IPv6 security if we don’t use IPv6”? Read More »

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It Is Never Too Early To Build A Mobility Strategy

It’s only October, but the holiday season is already kicking into high gear. If the retail stores are any indication, it’s time to start planning for the holidays, regardless of which one you celebrate. Much like holiday planning, it’s never too early to start building your organization’s mobility strategy.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about employees at your organization or customers at your venue.

Everyone is bringing their own device.

Everyone is bringing their own device.

The influx of smartphones and tablets into the workplace is serious business. Apple, Samsung, and Google are duking it out for our affections these days. But it’s not just about reacting to “Bring your own device” (BYOD) trends in the office, or providing free Wi-Fi for your customers. Your employees and customers expect more robust mobile experiences, so you need a clear mobility strategy to stay ahead of their demands.

Read More »

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