UPDATED 14:12 EST / FEBRUARY 11 2016


Linux Foundation lines up big guns for open I/O standard push

The Linux Foundation has teamed with a blue-chip group of corporate sponsors on a project to build an open source input/output (I/O) services framework, primarily focused on networking and storage software. The project, called FD.io (“Fido”) also announced an initial release of its software and the formation of a validation testing lab.

FD.io is intended to provide “a modular, extensible I/O services framework that supports rapid development of high-throughput, low-latency and resource-efficient I/O services,” the organization said in a press release. “The design of FD.io is hardware-, kernel-, and deployment-agnostic,” meaning that it can run on physical servers, virtual machines and containers.

Founding sponsors include Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Comcast Corp., LM Ericsson Telefon AB, Intel, Mesosphere Inc. and Red Hat Inc.

FD.io is another in a series of projects that attempt to build a common platform for fully virtualized and scalable server operations, a movement being spearheaded on the hardware side by the Facebook-backed Open Compute Project. That project focuses mainly on hardware design, however. FD.io is targeting the network layer.

Giant steps

Cisco’s involvement is particularly notable since the networking giant was late to the software-defined networking (SDN) game, in which network switching and routing functions run on commodity Intel X86 hardware. Under new CEO Chuck Robbins, however, Cisco appears to be making up for lost time. Robbins has pledged to make all of Cisco’s networking functionality available in software.

The networking market has been one of the last bastions of proprietary technology, in large part because the throughput demands of high-speed networks have been best served by custom silicon. SDN and network function virtualization (NFV) are basically attacking the low end of that market, since X86 servers are not optimized for scale-up performance.

“It looks like Cisco, Ericsson and several others are trying to take similar technology to what exists in custom silicon chips and turn that into Linux servers,” said Brian Gracely, lead cloud computing analyst at Wikibon. “They’re trying to come up with more efficient ways to spread those packets across the network.”

FD.io’s initial code contributions include vector packet processing (VPP), a highly optimized packet processor for general-purpose CPUs developed by Cisco. The initial release of FD.io framework is fully functional and available for download, the group said. It provides virtual switch and router functionality using the open-source Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) for high-performance, hardware-independent I/O. The initial release will also include a full build, tooling, debugging and development environment as well as an OpenDaylight management agent.

Significantly for enterprise customers, the group also announced a Continuous Performance Lab to provide an open source testing infrastructure framework for continuous verification of code functionality and performance. Although no certification program was announced, the lab is clearly intended to give developers a way to reassure customers that their FD.io-compliant products are interoperable.

“When the biggest networking company and one of the biggest mobile phone companies team up to make networking more efficient, it’s something to keep an eye on,” Gracely said.


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