SD-WANs Take Data Center-Class Virtualization to the Edge

March 4, 2019 Supermicro

Bandwidth-hungry video-streaming applications and latency-sensitivity services like voice-over-IP (VoIP) are stretching network limits. However, adding more network capacity for a diverse array of communication services will inevitably translate into significant cost and complexity overhead. Moreover, purpose-built proprietary network servers catering to various networking elements are also hard to manage and maintain. And if you take the outsourcing path for these single-function boxes, you better start rethinking your budget altogether.

That’s why telecom operators, enterprise network suppliers and system integrators are increasingly looking toward access solutions at the network edge that can reduce the amount of specialized, proprietary networking appliances.

Enter software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN).

SD-WAN: SDN at the Edge

To address many of the problems described above, today’s data center network infrastructure is built around SDN. By decoupling virtual network functions (VNFs) from the control and data planes, network operators can adopt more general-purpose equipment that can be repurposed for a variety of services. In addition to flexibility, this also reduces complexity and cost.

Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) systems, which have roots in the SDN world, also abstract network hardware and transport characteristics from the applications that use the network. Only these systems are designed for edge access networks. As a result, SD-WANs deliver increased network agility and cost reduction compared to traditional WANs (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology significantly reduces costs compared to traditional WANs (Source: Nemertes Research).

Just as important, SD-WAN solutions enable operators to add performance and flexibility for next-generation enterprise and IoT workloads. This is especially true when VNFs can be hosted in the data center as well as delivered remotely over the network to SD-WAN equipment at the edge (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) solutions offer a simplified approach to delivering next-generation services to edge nodes like the branch office (Source: Intel Corp.).

Universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) is the hardware foundation on which SD-WANs operate. uCPE is an emerging category of network functions virtualization-enabled (NFV-enabled) equipment that defines a set of off-the-shelf hardware and open software technologies, providing a virtualized environment on top of which network service providers deploy SDN and VNF features and services.

Developers looking to bring data center-like virtualization capabilities to the network edge using uCPE can get started quickly with solutions like Supermicro’s SuperServer 5019D-FN8TP (Figure 3). The 5019D-FN8TP is a uCPE SD-WAN controller capable of running multiple VNFs at the network edge, including routing, virtual private networks (VPNs), and firewalls.

Figure 3. The Supermicro SuperServer 5019D-FN8TP is a flexible universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) solution capable of providing routing, virtual private network (VPN), firewall, and other services as virtual network functions (VNFs) at the network edge (Source: Supermicro).

The 5019D-FN8TP is based on an eight-core, 16-thread Intel® Xeon® D processor and supported by up to 512 Gbytes of DDR4 memory in four slots. Additional storage and networking capacity is also available through the platform’s M.2 and Mini-PCIe slots.

Figure 4. The Supermicro SuperServer 5019D-FN8TP comes equipped with ample processing, memory, storage, and networking chops to facilitate virtual network functions (VNFs) on software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) (Source: Supermicro).

What makes the 5019D-FN8TP stand out from other white box solutions is that it is one of the first Intel® Select Solutions for uCPE, a program that delivers a fully tested and validated network hardware and software stack to help developers easily integrate a variety of VNFs and SD-WAN overlay architectures.

As a result, the 5019D-FN8TP solution enables network designers to simplify edge networks by using an off-the-shelf bundle of hardware and software components that can be dynamically configured for new network services and functions.

A Network Assist from Intel® Xeon® D

The 5019D-FN8TP also supports complementary technologies integrated into the Xeon® D processor, including Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (Intel® VT-d), the Intel® Data Plane Development Kit (Intel® DPDK), and Intel® QuickAssist Technology (Intel® QAT). Intel VT-d, for instance, provides hardware support for isolating and restricting device access to the owner of the partition managing the device. In the 5019D-FN8TP server solution, this ensures efficient access for virtual machines (VMs) pushing data traffic over virtual network routes.

Likewise, the Intel DPDK helps optimize data traffic for specific VNFs and efficiently integrates them with an SD-WAN stream (Figure 5). The DPDK technology improves throughput and packet processing performance on processing platforms like Intel Xeon.

Figure 5. Integrated Intel® technologies on Supermicro universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) enable efficient resource management, traffic routing, and security for software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) deployments (Source: insight.tech).

Finally, Intel QAT within the Xeon processors complements the software-defined environment by bringing data center-level security to the edge. It provides a hardware-accelerated performance boost by offloading security operations such as asymmetric encryption, symmetric encryption and authentication, digital signatures, and data compression from the host processor. As a result, Xeon processor cores at the heart of systems like the 5019D-FN8TP have more computing capacity for SD-WAN functions.

SD-WAN, Tested and Optimized

Through the Intel Select Solutions program, the SuperMicro’s SuperServer 5019D-FN8TP has been verified to meet specific Xeon D processor workload optimization requirements. The off-the-shelf design solution is also pre-tested and pre-validated by both Supermicro and Intel at the BIOS, firmware, operating system, and VM level.

As a deployable reference platform, the 5019D-FN8TP allows developers to spend less time, effort, and expense evaluating hardware and software options. Instead, they can focus on deploying SD-WANs with VNFs that meet their specific edge networking use case in a way that maximizes bandwidth, lowers cost, and enables new revenue-generating services.

Telecom operators, enterprise service providers, network integrators, and even IoT organizations can now confidently scale edge networks into segments like augmented/virtual reality, 5G, and beyond.

For more information on Supermicro's scalable solutions for the software-defined network edge, visit www.supermicro.com/products/system.

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