IP Infusion Serves Up BGP

IP Infusion Inc. might have found a good way to annoy Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

No, IP Infusion isn't doing something like, say, building its own server that could compete with key partners. But its idea for a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) route server, announced today, is being pitched as a way to save money on pricey router ports.

The feature comes with version 7.7 of IP Infusion's ZebOS protocol stack. Other new tidbits in the release include support for Provider Backbone Bridge - Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE, also called PBT) and pseudowire support within Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). (See IP Infusion Adds PBB-TE.) BGP is the routing protocol behind the Internet; routers use it to decide where to send packets. The BGP stack is a central part of ZebOS.

The BGP route server is a centralized route-computing engine that's tapped by routers around the network. Typically, that function gets housed in a high-end router. With the new version of ZebOS being released today, IP Infusion wants to run the route server on a plain, off-the-shelf blade server.

This doesn't mean IP Infusion is trying to replace routing. The forwarding of packets would still be handled by routers. But the route servers wouldn't need to occupy router slots.

It might seem like a small step, but it's one that service providers want to see, says Koichi Narasaki, CEO of IP Infusion and, now, chief strategy officer for parent company Access Co. Ltd. (See Access Acquires IP Infusion and Access Co. Names Execs.)

"Several carriers have approached us saying they're extremely interested in something like a 'soft' router," Narasaki says. "I can't say any names, but huge Tier 1s are interested in that. If they told that story to their OEMs, they would hate it."

What's making the idea possible is the advancement in technology for blade servers -- the increased memory and computing power, and the feasibility of 40-Gbit/s ports.

"All the ingredients are there, so as chefs, we would like to explore that cuisine for the carrier," Narasaki says.

(Incidentally, this doesn't appear to be Cisco's motivation for wanting to get into the server market; Cisco seems more interested in data-center virtualization.)

Route servers are a control-plane element, so IP Infusion's idea resembles the way Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has separated the control plane into a box called the Juniper Control System (JCS) 1200. (See Juniper Splits Out Its Control Plane and Juniper Divvies Up the Core.)

Deb Mielke, principal analyst with Treillage Network Strategies Inc. , points out that, while the idea is new, it's not necessarily so radical. Routers now accommodate different types of processing cards. Zeugma Systems Inc. even built a router that can be loaded with more computing cards than routing cards. (See Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing.)

"If you really think about how a CRS-1 [Cisco's core router] is constructed, it's basically a blade server for the network," she says.

But that brings up a question: Would you really do this just to save a slot on, say, a CRS-1? "There has to be a more specific application. I would see it as more for Internet exchange points" than for the general network, Mielke says.

Mielke, who was hearing IP Infusion's idea for the first time when interviewed by Light Reading, has a hunch that some carriers will have trouble with the idea of a server helping out with routing.

"The guys that buy servers are not the guys that buy the network," Mielke says. "The biggest challenge is going to be more of an organizational one than a technological one."

On top of that, the introduction of a server into the router network means one more type of box to maintain and keep spares for. And servers don't have the reputation of being telecom-hardened. "When you look at any server, you get into the reliability thing. I'm relying on one device," Mielke says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

CoreRouterBuilder 12/5/2012 | 4:12:10 PM
re: IP Infusion Serves Up BGP there is nothing new here. It depends what kind performance you need. if there is an intrest in soft IP forwarding then It could be.

to develop a very large system for 4Og IP forwarding requires a lot --250-300K development cost to put the system together.

routing software is the key if evrything else is there and working optics; asics etc.

Gated was one; it was ported on bunch of routers and etc;

good marketing!
bollocks187 12/5/2012 | 4:12:00 PM
re: IP Infusion Serves Up BGP Agreed nothing new here,

Also first hand experience of using their code - mickey mouse implementation.
MarkElias 12/5/2012 | 4:12:00 PM
re: IP Infusion Serves Up BGP Not sure what the background on your consultant, but route servers have been around for well over 10 years. The initial IETF draft on route servers (RFC1863) was approved in October 1995. There were integral parts of the original NSF Internet NAPs and were used at many exchange points until such time as routers grew up enough to handle the rigors of full mesh BGP connections. According to Merit Networks who were managing the routing policy updates, known as the Route Arbiter Database, the last old style route servers were part of the ANX network and were decommissioned around 2005.
volkot 12/5/2012 | 4:11:09 PM
re: IP Infusion Serves Up BGP
... if you have never heard of the route reflectors?

As it was correctly pointed out, various "soft-router" BGP implementations have been around forever. In fact, running routed/gated was quite popular on NetBSD and FreeBSD PCs in 90s.

So nothing new here.

Now, question is - can IP Infusion refresh and commercialize the legacy public domain code in form of ZebOS or any other animal?

I see nothing wrong with this idea, except for the fact that it's a bit late. Juniper has done exactly this, starting with gated code in 90s, and many other companies followed. So we know it's possible - although it takes time, talent and $$$$ to develop and harden the software. And until this is done, service providers will not trust a newcomer.
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