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Interop 2014: New Broadcom processer boosts NFV deployments

The new multi-core Broadcom processor will enable better processing and agility when simplifying NFV and SDN deployments.

LAS VEGAS -- Broadcom today announced the release of a multi-core communications processor that could help simplify and better enable deployments of both SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV).

The processor offers servers up to four times more performance power than similar processors, giving engineers the ability to write applications faster, lower power consumption and improve performance.

Named the XLP500 Series, the processor is an extension of Broadcom's XLP 11 multi-core processor family. The Series uses 32 nxCPUs and 80 Gbps to boost performance.

"We're seeing a massive movement in the industry to NFV and SDN deployments," said Chris O'Reilly, senior director of product market for Broadcom's Infrastructure and Networking Group. "This is driven by carriers who need to move more quickly and increase the velocity of feature deployment for consumers."

All semi-conductor suppliers wanting to become platforms for NFV need to continually improve their input/output and software handling capabilities, said Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research. "Broadcom is straight forward in terms of their '4x' capabilities and specifications, so this is a significant enhancement from their previous version," he said.

Tom Halfhill, senior analyst at the Linley Group, said Broadcom is raising the bar on what was known as mid-range processors. "It looks mid-range, but it's delivering high performance," he said. "It has 40 Gb Ethernet ports, which you don't find in other mid-range processors like this. Most would have 10 Gb at the most."

Halfhill added that with this amount of processing power, NFV deployments could be made substantially easier. "It's hard to say what affect it will have on any particular application, but it's more performance and more network input," he said. "[Engineers] will find ways to use it, and it will make it easier to deploy those types of technologies."

Broadcom processor architecture

The Series works by using a quad-issue, quad-threaded architecture with out-of-order execution. Each processor core has four independent processing elements with eight threads, meaning 32 processing elements per chip, explained O'Reilly.

The Series is also considered quad-issue, meaning that with any given processor cycle, a single CP core can issue four requests to the pipeline, which is essentially the processing capacity of the device.

Having an out-of-order execution is key to the Series as well. "If I search ESPN to figure out today's NCAA tournament, my computer will go to a router, and from the router, maybe half of the packet would go one route, and half the other route," said O'Reilly. "When it gets to the destination in the NCAA server, some of my information may get to the CPU in an out-of-order manner."

There has to be the ability for the processor to handle out-of-order instruction, said O'Reilly. Broadcom is integrating that function into its series of switches to alleviate the bottleneck and ensure the processor is constantly being used. "The last thing you want is to have a high performance CPU and half of the time, the core is idle because it doesn't have the information you need to move forward," he said.

Hardware purpose-built for open NFV

The Series supports Broadcom's Open NFV platform, which was recently announced at the Mobile Word Congress in Barcelona. The platform is designed to accelerate NFV adoption by allowing the implementation of applications across multiple system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor tools based on Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). It allows for OEMs and ecosystem vendors to migrate virtual functions between platforms using components like Linux, a kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) and an Online Charging System. In turn, the platform is independent of the target SOC's ISA, which allows vendors to develop NFV applications that are highly portable.

"The goal [of the Open NFV platform] is to create an ecosystem that allows any customer to develop their solution on any hardware platform with a tool set in place that allows them to migrate the investment they're made to any other hardware platform," said O'Reilly. "Moving from generation to generation, sometimes the hardware platform of a particular vendor doesn't scale quick enough."

In turn, Broadcom's XLP500 series is "that underlying hardware platform," that the Open NFV platform will leverage, said O'Reilly. "The Open NFV platform is the software ecosystem necessary for next generation deployment; the Series is the hardware and they clearly work together."

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