But increasingly, data centers need more agility from their networks for flexibility and security and this is driving the development and adoption of network virtualization.
Ten years ago when bare metal servers running a single application were the norm, Virtual LAN (VLAN) technology was the primary technology used to virtualize networks, in this case, creating multiple logical LANs on a single physical network.
But VLANs can’t keep up in the virtualized data center where there is a constant need to move virtual machines and virtual network functions between physical servers automatically and rapidly. If VLAN technologies are used, then physical changes at a switch are required and this dramatically restricts data center agility.
VLANs are now giving way to Network Virtualization Overlay (NVO) technology to deliver network agility for data centers. Intel is leading in this area with our Intel® Ethernet Controller XL710 and its family of 10GbE/40GbE network-interface cards.
XL710 controllers have built-in NVO technologies including Network Service Headers (NSH), Geneve, VXLAN and NVGRE. These technologies provide the intelligence required to support dynamic, centralized network reconfiguration using software driven networking controllers, such as OpenStack.
With an NVO-enabled network, moving a VM to a new hardware platform reduces switch configuration changes as the virtual network configuration remains associated with the virtual server being moved. And, creating network segments to deploy new services can just take minutes rather than days or weeks to manually coordinate complex network changes.
NVO technology takes care of the north-south data flows that hit the Ethernet network. But virtualized data center servers also create significant east-west data flows to support VM-to-VM communications or VM-to-storage communications.
Minimizing the number of server CPU cycles needed to process this east-west traffic is a critical issue. Most switching is done in the server using Open vSwitch, which gets line-rate performance from the use of the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK)—both of which are Intel-developed open standards.
The recently launched Intel® Ethernet Multi-host Controller FM10000 Family (formerly Red Rock Canyon), supports multiple 100GbE ports, so it offers great performance for north-south data flows. But the innovative chip also provides an extra boost to east-west data traffic via a unique Open vSwitch acceleration capability.
In addition to its Ethernet ports, the FM10000 features multiple PCI Express* (PCIe*) 3.0 connections and a very low latency switch, which is able to switch the PCIe connections to either network or PCIe 3.0 ports. A PCIe-to-PCIe link is a very high-performance, low latency way to accelerate Open vSwitch traffic from the network and also to accelerate network traffic of the processing done by the server CPU.
Data center virtualization is about application and infrastructure flexibility and networking virtualization is bringing these same benefits to the network fabrics that connect the data center. At Intel, we want to lead the network virtualization revolution with complete support for NVO standards in our current XL710 products, and to bring added innovations like Open vSwitch acceleration with the FM10000.