SDN architectures

Cisco Aims New Chip at SDN, M2M

Cisco has unveiled a new scalable and programmable network processor it is billing as the world's most advanced in those areas. It's aimed at enabling the kind of rapid changes needed to support software-defined networking (SDN) and the massive number of machine-to-machine connections that lie ahead.

The Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) nPower X1 integrated network processor is capable of scaling to multi-terabit performance levels while handling trillions of transactions. That performance level is going to be required in the future, not just to enable SDN, but also to facilitate the rapid turning up and turning down of connections for M2M on a broad scale, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin.

"The Internet of things changes a lot of things for the devices that power the Internet in the sense that there will be a lot more connections than we have had in the past," Perrin says. "The traffic flowing between those connections may not be tremendous, but the speed of the transactions is much quicker. The dimension of scale required reflects not just how many bits, but how quickly you can set up and tear down traffic flows, and deal with an order of magnitude more connections."

According to Cisco, the nPower X1 incorporates over 50 patents, is the first chip with 400 Gbit/s throughput, and has 4 billion transistors on a single chip. Its programmable control capabilities are set up to handle hundreds of millions of unique transactions. That capacity is going to be needed once our thermostats, refrigerators, and beer mugs have always-on network connections. (For a lively discussion of 400 Gig performance issues, check out this blog.)

Why this matters
Cisco says this chip has eight times the throughput and requires one-quarter the power per bit. It's clear that SDN will require more processing capability if networks are to be reconfigured via software on the fly. It's also clear that M2M apps will need more rapid processing and thus chips like this one are inevitably required.

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— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event that takes place on October 2-3, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register, click

sterlingperrin 9/18/2013 | 9:50:32 AM
Re: Brain in neutral Ping,

I had the same thought when I saw the release. Everybody in networking is tying everything to SDN right now because it gets press. "Cloud" used to be the in thing not too long ago but now it's second (or third) fiddle in marketing efforts.

I think the innovations talked about here are more applicable to cloud - the new diminsions in scale in turning up and tearing down flows are related to cloud service delivery. SDN is an enabler for cloud service delivery, and SPs we talk to definitely see a connection. But I agree that suppliers (across the board) are calling everything SDN without being specific at all.

yarn 9/17/2013 | 4:28:23 PM
Re: Brain in neutral EZchip just announced Cisco will use its silicon to upgrade their existing NP4-based platforms with NP5. That'd include ASR9K, but it makes me scratch my head what this new X1 chip of theirs would be good for if it can't even beat out EZchip. Anyway, I guess we'll find out soon. The suspense is just killing me:-)  
sam masud 9/16/2013 | 1:22:09 PM
Brain in neutral Am I missing something? Cause I really don't get how this network pricessor is specifically targeted at SDN. Or did it just sound nice for Cisco to stick the letters SDN in the announcement of this chip. Please help/ explain....
MarkC73 9/14/2013 | 1:39:12 PM
Re: Qualcomm, too Just a thought, if hardware capable, wouldn't it be kind of cool, if each M2M flow would be able to signal for resources and be network aware, and while having the overall control plane still in SDN but the flows still aggregated into a differentiated services model (macroflows), so that the hardware is still simple and fast, but the software would be able to control all of this dynamically.  I guess some of this kind of already exists in performance based routing, but putting hardware hooks available to SDN takes it to a whole new level.

Would be interested in the platforms their targeting.
Carol Wilson 9/13/2013 | 2:33:59 PM
Re: Qualcomm, too Well darn, Sarah, if I'd known you were our new reporter in charge of M2M chips, you could have written this. 

I think we are going to see a lot more technology aimed at addressing M2M which has been a long time coming. 
Sarah Thomas 9/13/2013 | 12:34:53 PM
Qualcomm, too Qualcomm put out a new chip for M2M last week as well, relying on WiFi: http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=705553. Whatever you call it -- Internet of Things, Internet of Everything, connected devices, M2M -- it's clearly the next battleground.
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