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Cisco's vSwitch Makes the Grade

Ray Le Maistre

In what is "one of the first comprehensive, independent and public vSwitch performance evaluations" ever, Cisco's virtual switch and routing technology has been put through its paces by independent lab EANTC and found to deliver the throughput and scalability needed for service provider virtualization deployments.

The details of the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) evaluation and the results and conclusions can be found in the Prime Reading report -- Validating Cisco's NFV Infrastructure Pt. 1.

The report can also be downloaded in PDF format: click on this link to get the report.

The evaluation is timely. Operators are right now preparing to launch commercial services that make use of SDN and NFV capabilities and they need to know which technologies are reliable in a commercial, production environment.

EANTC's evaluation found that the performance of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Vector Packet Processing (VPP), the vendor's proprietary virtual switch module that is integrated into multiple Cisco products, was "much more consistent and reliable" than the DPDK-based open source Open vSwitch (OVS), which displayed some variable and unexpected results in some of the test scenarios.

As EANTC's managing director, Carsten Rossenhövel, notes in the report's conclusion, "the traditional vendor model still has advantages when it comes to quality assurance and when reliable software needs to be bundled for use in mission-critical service provider applications."

That "traditional vendor model" involves 'hardening' a technology for use by network operators, building on the baseline capabilities and enhancing it.

And as we heard today from Tier 1 operator speakers at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Germany, network operators know that, at least in their initial move towards becoming what Axel Clauberg at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) calls a "software-defined operator," a mix of vendor-developed and "open" technologies will be needed. (See Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)

That mix, though, will change over time: Open source technology for wide area networks is still at the very early stages of development but is maturing fast. "It's clear that the open source solution will soon become usable for large-scale deployments once a few more glitches will have been eliminated," noted Rossenhövel.

That means vendors such as Cisco need to play in both camps and be ready to deliver to operator needs, whether with open source software, enhanced variants on open source models or proprietary technology. It seems Cisco, along with others, is well aware of this.

"Cisco is contributing to the key open source developments that are underpinning NFV -- OpenStack, OpenDaylight and Open vSwitch -- and is ahead of many other network equipment vendors in terms of the level of its participation," notes Caroline Chappell, Principal Analyst, Cloud and NFV, at Heavy Reading .

Cisco has plenty of network operator customers, so it knows what they need and how they use technology. Based on the evidence of EANTC's initial evaluation of the vendor's service provider cloud and virtualization capabilities at the beginning of this year and the latest NFVi tests, it seems the company is in harmony with service provider needs -- at least for now. (See Validating Cisco's Service Provider Virtualization & Cloud Portfolio.)

Find out more about EANTC's evaluation by checking out the new report, and look out for the second part of its Cisco NFVi evaluation on Light Reading next week, which will focus on: Carrier-grade high availability and reliability; the integration, features and performance of key applications -- Cloud DVR and virtual EPC (evolved packet core); and an evaluation of Cisco's "single pane of glass" management capabilities with regards to its NFVi.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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10/14/2015 | 11:56:54 AM
Re: Fine line for R&D
Hi Ray,

Great to see some information on vSwitch technology. This is a key enabling technology for Telco NFV to become a reality.

My understanding is that VPP is not similar to OVS. VPP is a VM based forwarding technology. Only Cisco application can run VPP such as VTS or XRv. You need to lifecycle these VM which doesn't come for free.

While OVS is deployed as part of the hypervisor or guest OS and will then work natively with any VM or VNF.

vSwitch forwarding is a delicate art any conclusion should be taken with care.

Also, do you make any connection between this Cisco technology and their investment in 6Wind?


[email protected]
10/13/2015 | 12:06:24 PM
Fine line for R&D
For companies that are big enough, such as Cisco, treading the fine line that now exists between embracing open source, delivering technology that works in carrier networks and NOT being too proprietary is tricky but achievable.

For smaller companies? Not so. Many companies will have to choose one path and stick to it and then hope it's the right path because these days the market changes os quickly, vendors won't be able to shift straegy and R&D quick enough to turn a ship around and change direction.

It could be brutal.

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