Netronome takes the overhead out of network virtualization

Netronome Agilio Server Networking Platform

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) offer some pretty compelling price/performance advantages, but they harbor a dirty little secret: Virtualization and software overhead can eat up 80 percent of hardware capacity.

That cuts into cost savings but, more importantly, increases complexity as IT organizations have to layer on additional servers to match the throughput of dedicated networking equipment. And some applications simply don’t scale out that well.

Enter Netronome Systems Inc.‘s Agilio Server Networking Platform a hardware co-processor and software bundle that the company says can completely and transparently offload server-based networking data paths. Fitted anto a PCIe card, the product is said regain nearly all of the hardware capacity lost to typical SDN/NFV overhead.

Network virtualization can consume as many as twelve out of the sixteen core processors on an x86 server, said Sujal Das, senior vice president and general manager of the strategy and data center business unit at Netronome, a 12-year-old maker of hardware and software for network virtualization.

Security is also a problem in highly virtualized server environments because each virtual machine can require up to 1,000 security policy rules. “You can’t apply that number of policies efficiently in software,” Das said.

The Agilio CX intelligent server adapters are PCIe co-processors that use proprietary flow processing silicon and a software architecture that complies with standard networking software in commercial off-the-shelf servers. Onboard memory can support up to two million security policies and deliver 28 million packets per second of throughput using hardware-based acceleration. Agilio said the adapters use only about 10 percent of the compute resources required to deliver scalable server-based networking functions, allowing a typical server to reclaim 11 of the 12 cores typically lost to virtualization overhead. One card can handle up to 64 virtual machines and a second card can be added for larger environments.

The first product to be released will be a 10/40 gigabit Ethernet switch adapter running Open vSwitch and priced in the $600 range. Future plans include a virtual switch, virtual router and Linux firewall. The company is working with Juniper Networks Inc. on a virtual router based on Juniper’s Contrail vRouter as well as a Linux firewall. Security is based upon Mirantis Inc.’s OpenStack cloud implementation.