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Open Standards, Open Source, Open Loop

As the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) meets in Hawaii (IETF 91), the unavoidable question for both participants and observers is whether a Standards Development Organization (SDO) like the IETF is relevant in a rapidly expanding environment of Open Source Software (OSS) projects.

For those new to the conversation, the open question is NOT whether SDOs should exist.  They are a political reality inexorably tied to trade policies and international relationships.  The fundamental reason behind their existence is to avoid a communications Tower of Babel (with the resulting economic consequences) and establish governance over the use of global commercial and information infrastructure (not just acceptable behavior, but the management of resources like addressing as well).  Rather, the question is about their role going forward in enabling innovation. 

SDO Challenges

SDOs (like the IETF) have to evolve their processes Read More »

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The Execution of Cisco’s Evolved Programmable Network Strategy

Welcome to the first post of “my blog,” which will keep you up-to-date on the execution of Cisco’s Evolved Programmable Network, or EPN strategy. This blog will help you understand EPN and its associated Evolved Services Platform, or ESP, and how they will change your network and its operation. As an introduction, it is simplest to think of EPN as the physical and virtual network components, and ESP as the collection of management software used to operate the network.

People are fundamentally changing the way they think about networks due to industry interest in Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). These terms mean many different things to different people, so we need to define them along with how they are integrated for useful purposes within EPN and ESP.


SDN is possibly the most overused term in the networking industry at this time. The acronym originated in Read More »

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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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CCAP+Remote PHY and the Path Towards FTTH, Unified Access and Virtualization

jchapmanBy John Chapman, Cisco Fellow, CTO, Cable Access BU

This week, we and 10,000 or so hard-core engineering colleagues within the cable industry descend upon the city once known as the cable capital of the world — Denver, Colorado — and, like it’s been since the earliest days of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ annual Cable-Tec Expo, a trending topic, now and forever, is bandwidth.

The reasons why are obvious, but indulge me a brief recap: Consumer usage of broadband grows at an compound annual rate of 50% or more, ever since about 2009, when Netflix began streaming video, in addition to mailing DVDs. Add to that the sheer number of video-capable, IP-connected screens we all use, and the fact that video itself is only scheduled to get bigger (we’re looking at you 4K), and it’s easy to envision why it’s a considerable challenge to keep the cable infrastructure updated, and capable of ever-increasing carrying capacities.

Here in Denver, we are focused on this challenge. Big picture, we are “transforming” cable access from a DOCSIS focus, to integrate DOCSIS with service provider  WiFi, PON & FTTx, and MetroE into a single, easily- managed portfolio, which only Cisco can deliver. Doubleclicking on the DOCSIS pillar alone, we are taking the CMTS architecture and redefining it to deliver far more bandwidth, for far less cost. We see two technologies that stand out: Read More »

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Operators Accelerating Pace with NFV and SDN

Save Money Here and Now

When was the last time you won the lottery?  If you are like me, it’s a pretty rare occasion indeed.  The same probability can be applied to increasing the budget allocation for any business and especially for service providers.  What can service providers do to save money now, enabling them to invest in new services and boost revenues?   Network functions virtualization (NFV) comes to the rescue, with help of course, from software defined networking (SDN), and open source innovations.

SDN and NFV represent a significant change in networking as we currently know it. Together and separately, both target cost savings, operational complexity, and network optimization – and both hold much promise for the operator. As with all things offering great potential rewards, one must balance these benefits and address the associated risks accordingly when deploying them.

For service providers, the data center is leading target for SDN and NFV deployments. Given all the activity focused on cloud computing, content delivery, and anything-as-a-service (XaaS) offerings, the service provider data centers must advance across many fronts (security, automation, mobility, reliability analytics, and provisioning) to be successful.

Interestingly, all operators Read More »

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